What Are Lay Orders?

10.24.17 | Lay Orders

    Good question!  Our bishop has challenged us to raise up and equip a new generation of leaders to teach the faith and share the Gospel.  That’s why we’ve started discernment and training programs for what we’re calling Lay Orders of Catechists and Evangelists.  

    In the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Dallas, catechists and evangelists are licensed lay ministries (see Canon III.4) authorized by the bishop.  This initiative seeks to lift up these under-utilized lay ministries in our church, and to provide high-quality training through the Stanton Center for those who feel called to them.   

    If you feel called to this, please be in touch!  We’re looking in particular for people who have gifts and callings to teaching and evangelism but would like to be better trained to live out those callings.  Perhaps you’re a Sunday School teacher or a small group leader who would love more in-depth theological education, or could use some practical training in how to teach classes or lead small groups.  Or maybe you’d like to be more intentional about and trained in sharing your faith and being a catalyst for mission in your congregation.  If so, these Lay Orders are for you.

    Many people will already feel well-equipped as teachers and evangelists in their ministry contexts.  This initiative does not mean that everyone has to go through our new diocesan training program!  It’s as the old saying puts it: “All may, none must, some should.”     

    Training for these Lay Orders is provided through the Stanton Center at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.  Coursework for catechists can be completed in three years, and evangelist training in two years.  If you have already taken equivalent courses elsewhere, that can count toward our requirements.

    Discernment for those called to these Lay Orders starts locally, with the approval of your rector or vicar, and then moves to the diocesan level.  More information, including a helpful pathway through the discernment and training process, a description of the training requirements, and an application form are available on this website.   We’ve also collected testimonies from people in our diocese who are already doing the work of catechists and evangelists, as you discern your own calling.  

    If you’re not sure yet what you may be called to, you can start in on classes at the Stanton Center regardless.  The first year’s courses are designed to aid you in your discernment, as well as provide a solid foundation for whatever ministry you may be called to.

    We’re glad you’re interested!  Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us a line if you’d like to learn more.  One of us would be glad to grab a cup of coffee and talk about where the Lord may be calling you. 

    What are Lay Orders?

    In the diocese of Dallas, the Lay Orders of Catechist and Evangelist are for followers of Jesus Christ who are called by God and trained and licensed by the Church for these particular ministries in the Body of Christ.  Our bishop has challenged us to raise up and equip a new generation of leaders to teach the faith and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and catechists and evangelists are those who are called to this mission.  People in these two Lay Orders are licensed by the Bishop according to TEC Canon III.4. 

    What are Catechists and Evangelists?

    Catechists and evangelists are lay people, called by God, trained and licensed by the Church to teach the faith and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Catechists are those who have a particular call to teach the apostolic faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).  First, they are prepared to teach the faith to new Christians and young people preparing for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and the Reaffirmation of their Baptismal Vows.  Second, they are prepared to assist parish clergy in the ongoing ministry of Christian formation.  Third, they are prepared to assist the bishop in teaching the faith in diocesan mission congregations, new church plants, and other small parishes as the bishop may request.  Their work in the diocese is overseen by the bishop, and in each congregation by the rector or vicar.

    Catechists have a long and rich history in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.  They have often served in places that cannot afford full-time clergy, or new communities that have not yet called a priest. In this way, they have often been at the cutting edge of church growth in challenging contexts.  Catechists have been crucial in the work of teaching the faith to the next generation, which is the work of the whole Christian community, not just the clergy.

    Evangelists are those who have a particular call to “go into all the world” and share the Gospel (Mark 16:15), so that those who do not know Christ may be brought to the knowledge and love of Him (BCP, Prayer for Mission, p. 101).  They are gifted and trained to present the Good News in such a way that people are led to receive Christ as Savior and follow Christ as Lord in the fellowship of the Church.  

    Evangelists, like catechists, have a crucial place in our church’s history and mission.  In the Church Missionary Society of the 19th century, and the East African Revival of the early 20th century, millions came to a saving faith in Christ in the fellowship of his Body the Church, leading to what we now call the Anglican Communion in many lands.  Evangelists are everyday Christians who are called to bring Christ to every man, woman, and child, making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16).  Not only do they lead people to Christ, but lead others to share with him in an evangelistic way of life that shines the light of Christ into the world.  The call of the evangelist is two-fold: i) To proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed, ii) To equip the body of Christ to witness to the Gospel, living into their missional call. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

    See Canon III.4:

    A Catechist is a lay person authorized to prepare persons for Baptism, Confirmation, Reception, and the Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, and shall function under the direction of the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.

    An Evangelist is a lay person who presents the good news of Jesus Christ in such a way that people are led to receive Christ as Savior and follow Christ as Lord in the fellowship of the Church. An Evangelist assists with the community's ministry of evangelism in partnership with the Presbyter or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation, or as directed by the Bishop.

    Am I called to be a Catechist or Evangelist?

    “For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Rom. 12:4-6)

    Every Christian has a vocation to follow Jesus Christ, and to use the gifts God has given us for the building up of Christ’s Body and God’s Kingdom.  All are called!  The only question is: What is God calling me to do?

    Lay Catechists: If you, your priest, and your Christian community have discerned in you a particular gifting and passion for teaching the faith, then you may be called to the ministry of a lay catechist.  You may be involved in teaching Sunday School in your church, or leading small groups, or volunteering with the youth group.  Perhaps you are an experienced teacher who wants to go deeper into the Christian faith, to be better equipped to teach it to others.  Or perhaps you would like training in how to be a more effective teacher or small group leader.  If any of this is true, then being a Catechist may be what God is calling you to.

    Lay Evangelists:  If you, your priest, and your Christian community have discerned in you a particular gifting and passion for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with those who do not know him and to help your church be more missional and outwardly focused, then you may be called to the ministry of a lay evangelist.  You may find yourself sharing the faith in daily conversations with friends or co-workers, or feel led by the Spirit to share the Gospel with someone sitting next to you in an airport.  You may find yourself helping with parish outreaches to share Christ’s love in your neighborhood and surrounding community.  Perhaps you would love to be better equipped to share your faith, but sometimes feel uncomfortable doing so.  Perhaps you are already gifted in bearing witness to the Gospel, but would like better training in contextualizing the Gospel, Christian doctrine, apologetics (engaging the questions people frequently ask of the faith), or cross-cultural ministry.  If any of this is true, then you may be called to be in the order of Evangelists.

    Are Catechists and Evangelists meant to work in their home parishes, or to be sent out into the wider diocese?

    The answer is yes!  Both are true.  Many Catechists and Evangelists will be called to minister primarily in their home parishes, under the direction of their rector or vicar.  While working with your rector or vicar, the bishop may also send out catechists or evangelists to serve on the cutting edge of mission in small or struggling congregations, or new church plants. Be ready to be asked!

    I’m already active in Christian formation or evangelism in my parish.  Do I need this license to continue? 

    The short answer is no!  As the old saying has it: “All may, none must, some should.”  Your parish and rector may already be putting your gifts for teaching and/or evangelism to good use—let’s say, as a Sunday school teacher, Christian formation director, or in community outreach—and you may well feel adequately equipped to do what God is calling you to do in your church.

    That said, many people who are active in these ministries feel a desire and a need to go deeper in their theological education, and/or would like to be better equipped in their teaching or evangelism practice.  And some people may feel called to put their gifts at the service of not only their home parish but other diocesan missions and church plants that could use a helping hand.  If this sounds true of you, you may be one of the “some who should” inquire about becoming a diocesan Catechist or Evangelist—and we would love to talk with you. 

    What are the classes like?   

    Classes for Catechists and Evangelists are offered through the Stanton Center, a ministry of the diocese of Dallas at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.  Classes are held one weekend each month on Saturdays, with full-year classes running from August through May, and semester-long courses running from August through December and January through May.  For more information, please see the Stanton Center catalog, available at or via Janet Page or 214-823-8134 ext. 229.

    Coursework for catechists can be completed in three years, while coursework for evangelists can be completed in two. At present, most of our courses are offered on-site at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas.  However, we are working towards offering more online course options, so that some students can take courses largely from a distance if the commute poses a difficulty for them.

    Classes are taught by seminary-level academics and experienced practitioners from our diocese.  Instructors include Dr. Victor Lee Austin, Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and frequently published author; Bishop James Stanton, retired bishop of Dallas; and Carrie Boren Headington, diocesan Missioner for Evangelism and adjunct professor of evangelism at Fuller Seminary.  We’ll focus both on solid academics, and on building skills and practices to use in hands-on ministry.  Courses will cover the Bible, The Book of Common Prayer, prayer and the spiritual life, theology, ethics, church history, evangelism, apologetics, homiletics, and specialized topics like teaching a class, how to lead small groups, how to lead youth, and more (see the Stanton Center catalog for details).  After completion of your courses along with a hands-on, practical ministry project, you’ll receive a Diploma in Christian Ministry from the Stanton Center in Evangelism or Catechesis.  

    If I’ve already taken equivalent classes elsewhere, do I have to take them over again?

    No!  If you already have taken classes that cover our material from an approved institution, they can count toward your diploma.  Just let us know.

    If I’m not sure yet what I’m called to, can I still start taking classes?

    Yes!  Our first year of coursework is designed to be a discernment year, with a particular class that’s geared toward helping you discern where and how you’re called to serve.  You can jump in and start taking courses without yet having started the pathway to become licensed as a Catechist or Evangelist.  However, we recommend that if you have already begun to discern a call to become a Catechist or Evangelist, you start discerning that call locally with your rector. 

    Great!  Where do I start?

    Glad you asked!  If you’re interested in becoming an Evangelist, please contact Canon Evangelist Carrie Boren Headington.  If you’re interested in becoming a Catechist, please contact Canon Jordan Hylden.  If you’re not sure yet which Lay Order you may be called to, you can contact either of them anyway!  Or you can talk with Canon Jeremy Bergstrom, Canon for Vocations. 

    Janet Page, director of the Stanton Center, will be glad to answer any questions you might have about the classes offered there.  

    What do I have to do before becoming a Catechist or Evangelist? 

    There are three steps: nomination by your rector and the Bishop’s Committee on Lay Orders, training through the Stanton Center (or equivalent courses), and commissioning by the bishop to go and do the work of a Catechist or Evangelist!