Guidelines for Assisting Ministers

A Quick Summary

About Worship

  • Properly speaking, our worship/service of God are the acts of justice and mercy during the week – our care of our neighbor.
  • What we do together on Sunday is meant to shape, renew and empower our worship during the week.
  • First, the worship service is what we do together as a community, not a presentation for the community.
  • Second, the worship service is not what we do for God, but what God does for us.  (God does not need our praise; we need to praise God.)
  • Third, what we do serves God by giving expression to God’s Word (God’s encounter with us/God’s speaking to us).  This takes audible form in the scriptures, prayers and preaching, and visible form in the sacraments.
  • Christ is present in the proclamation of Christ and his work.

The Worship Service

  • First, the worship service is what we do together as a community, not a presentation for the community.
  • Second, the worship service is not what we do for God, but what God does for us.  (God does not need our praise; we need to praise God.)
  • Third, what we do serves God by giving expression to God’s Word (God’s encounter with us/God’s speaking to us).  This takes audible form in the scriptures, prayers and preaching, and visible form in the sacraments.
  • Christ is present in the proclamation of Christ and his work.

The Assisting minister’s role

The Assisting Minister assists the community in this worship (you are assisting the community not the pastor – as does pastor) by

  • Preparing and clearing the table (setting out and clearing away the bread and wine).
  • Giving voice to the prayers of the community:
    • Preparing and leading the prayers of the people
    • Leading the appointed prayers for the offering and after communion.
  • Helping to serve the meal:
    • Receiving the offering of bread
    • Distributing the wine at Holy Communion
  • Dismissing the congregation to their ministries (Go in peace…).
  • Assisting in other ways as may be needed, such as in a baptism.


The Detail

The Role of the Assisting Minister

Worship is the work of the people

First, worship is not what the pastor, choir, assisting ministers and acolytes do for the people, worship is done by people when they gather: they sing, they pray, they tell the story, they break the bread, and so celebrate the promise and presence of God.

In a very concrete way, the sermon isn’t what the presiding minister does; it’s what the pastor and people do together.  So, too, the prayers aren’t what the assisting minister does, it is what the assisting minister and people do together.  The task of the presiding and assisting ministers is simply to give voice to the faith and prayer of the community.

The responsibilities of the assisting minister

In our congregation, the specific responsibilities of the assisting minister are to:

  • Prepare the altar for communion,
  • Offer the prayers of the people,
  • Receive the offering of bread and wine,
  • Distribute the wine at Holy Communion,
  • Dismiss the congregation to their ministries (Go in peace…), and
  • Clear the altar after the service.

In addition to assisting the congregation in giving voice to their worship, the assisting minister’s role is also to assist the presiding minister.  For example, holding the altar book during a baptism, or turning its pages during the Communion liturgy.

The presence of an assisting minister in worship reminds us 1) that every member of the community is a minister, and 2) that the pastor, as one among many ministers, has a part to play in worship – but only a part.

Some Details

Generally the assisting minister belongs at the side of the presiding minister.  Normally, wherever he or she goes, you will also go.  If he or she goes to their seat, you will go to yours.  If he or she goes to the altar, you will also.

At Los Altos Lutheran Church the assisting minister stands at the presiding minister’s left side.

Because the assisting minister and presiding minister share the altar space for their ministries, it works best if the assisting minister steps slightly back and to the side while the presiding minister is speaking; and then steps to the center (and the presiding minister slightly back and to the side) when speaking. This allows the Presiding Minister to extend his or her hands for the Eucharistic Prayer or the Benediction.

The Prayers


The purpose of the Prayer of the Church is for the assisting minister to give voice to the prayers of the people.  Therefore the task is to lift up to God what you see and hear to be on the hearts and minds of the people.

Prayer does not have to be “fancy” or even poetic.  Good prayers are prayers from the heart that speak the concerns of the community.


The form of prayer we use in worship is called the collect prayer in which the prayers offered by the assisting minister gather or collect the thoughts of the people and lift them to God.  This form of prayer uses the response “Lord in your mercy,” “Hear our Prayer”.  In this form the assisting minister offers prayers as a series of brief petitions.

The traditional form of the collect is:

  • An address,
  • A description of God and/or the basis of the prayer, and then
  • The petition or request.

This can be very simple:

  • Almighty God, you rule over all nations.  Grant us peace in the Middle East.  Lord, in your mercy.
  • Hear our prayer.
  • Gracious God, source of all healing, touch with your healing presence those who are sick or in the hospital.  Lord, in your mercy.
  • Hear our prayer.

Or you can elaborate a little:

  • Almighty God, you alone rule over all nations.  Grant wisdom and understanding to the leaders of our nation and of our world and lead them to bring us a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  Lord, in your mercy.
  • Hear our prayer.
  • Gracious God, as your Son Jesus brought healing to many, send forth your Spirit upon those who are sick or in the hospital.  Sustain them by your grace and touch them with your healing hand.  Lord, in your mercy.
  • Hear our prayer.



The normal outline for the prayers is: the whole church, the nations, the parish (our congregation and our local communities), and special concerns.

Regular Petitions

Each Sunday we include special petitions for:

  • Our bishop, presiding bishop, and their staffs (traditionally referred to by their first names “our Bishop Mark, our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth”)
  • Our mission partner, Pueblo de Dios.
  • Those who are serving in the military.  (Be careful with this prayer.  First, we are divided about the wisdom of sending troops abroad and the prayer needs to speak for all people.  Second, we cannot pray against our enemies, since Jesus teaches us to love them, recognizing their humanity.  I like to ask that the members of the military will serve with courage and honor.)

Please find or create a special petition for these prayer concerns.

Prayers for those in Special Need

  1. Be sure to check the announcements in the bulletin on Sunday morning, which identifies people for the prayers of the church.  You should name all these people in the prayers since they are (or should be) on the minds of the whole community.
  2. At the conclusion of the petition for the sick say something like: “and all those whom we name before you now with prayers spoken aloud or silently …” or have a separate petition that invites the community to offer their special prayers
  3. Include in the prayers, a prayer for our shut-ins, if any are listed that way in our directory.  This can be a special petition, or simply added after the congregational prayers, saying something like “For these, for (n.) and all we have named before you, Lord in your mercy…”

General Comments on prayers

  1. Be specific.
  2. It is better to pray for the family in Palo Alto whose child was killed than simply for “victims of accidents”.

  3. Be specific, but don’t violate any confidences.
  4. Don’t pray for healing from cancer if the person hasn’t told people they have cancer.  If you are not sure what they are telling people, ask them if you can include them in the prayers.

  5. Ask God for what we want.
  6. If we want someone to be healed, it is appropriate to ask God for healing.  If we want an end to a teachers strike, ask for an end to the teachers strike.

  7. Ask God for what we want, but don’t be partisan.
  8. Remember you are speaking for the whole community.  We may all agree that we want an end to a teacher’s strike, but that doesn’t mean we agree that the school board should give in to the teacher’s demands or that the teachers should go back to work without a contract.

    In the same way, we will not all agree on what we should do about the conflict in the Middle East, but we can agree that we want God to bring peace and justice there.

    Be careful, the congregation may not be of one mind even when publicly people seem to share the same ideas.

  9. Remember the prayers are not announcements
  10. When we pray for specific people it is usually good to identify them in a way that the gathered community knows who we are praying for, but it is not necessary to announce all the details.  Thus:  “We pray for the family of n. on the death of his/her brother” rather than “We pray for the family of n. whose brother died Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh from a heart attack.”

    In the same way, it is not necessary to announce in the prayer what hospital people are in.

  11. Remember that you are praying not giving a speech.
  12. People are not listening to you; they are talking to God.  They are not evaluating your skill, but letting your words speak for them.  Your words are the vehicles of their prayer.

    When you sit down to write your prayers, pray and then write down what you pray.  Or think of it as a kind of letter to God.

  13. You are free to use or revise prayers that have been written by others (as long as they work for us).
  14. One source of collect prayers is in the green hymnal on pages 42-51, and in the prayer of the church on pages 52-53.

    The prayers on pages 13-41 are the ones used by the pastor for the Prayer of the Day.  You may use one of these, but be sure you don’t use the one assigned to the day since we will have already used it in the liturgy.

             (PLEASE NOTE: most of the prayers in the hymnal are meant to stand alone and so they end with the words “through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Do not use this ending when using one of these prayers; it will confuse people.  They are accustomed to responding to that phrase with “Amen.”)

  15. I encourage you to be sensitive to the use of language with regard to gender.  There is no point in saying “all men” when we can just as easily say “all people”, and since you are talking to God in the first person it is not necessary to speak of God as “he”.  The point here, as always, is to offer prayers that speak for all, and some people are troubled by such language.  At the same time, however, don’t make the language too awkward; we don’t want people listening to the words but participating in the prayer.
  16. Finally, ask God to help you write the prayers, and then trust God to use them.

Before Worship

  1. Fill the glass of wine and the glass of grape juice and set them on the altar.


  • The glasses should be on the counter and/or in the small box for each glass.
  • The wine is under the sink.
  • The white grape juice will be in a juice box on the counter, or on or in the refrigerator.  Use a new box.  Cut the corner of the juice box so you can pour it into the glass.
  • alterPlace the wine on the corporal square to the left (as you stand behind the altar, facing the congregation), covered with a purificator (napkin).  This way the wine will be in your left hand as you serve.
  • Place the grape juice to the right, covered with a purificator (napkin).  Leave a space between the glasses so that the bread will be visible to the congregation when it is placed on the altar.
  • Please note: The purificators should be set sideways over the wine and grape juice so that they are visible to the congregation.
  • Two extra purificators (napkins) should be on the right side of the corporal square to be used by the pastor for the bread.
  • The pyx, a small container with the gluten free wafers, should be on the credence table.


  1. Put the bread on the plate and cover with the round cloth and place it on the back table to be brought forward as part of the offering.
  2. Put on your robe (except in summer)
  3. Get your microphone.

The Holy Communion

receiving the offering

When the ushers come forward, you and the acolyte will go to receive the offering.  Do not take the bread until the congregation stands and begins to sing the offertory.

As the congregation begins to sing, take the bread and turn together with the acolyte towards the altar, raise the bread in a gesture of offering, and carry it around the altar (to the right) and place it on the corporal square between the two glasses.

When the congregation has finished the offertory, lead the community in presenting the gifts by praying the offertory prayer.

For the distribution

  1. After the invitation to come forward for communion, the presiding minister will take the bread and you will take the two chalices to distribute the wine.  You will follow the presiding minister.
  2. You will serve each person with the words “The Blood of Christ shed for you”.  Speak the words clearly, but you don’t have to invest them with meaning; Jesus has done that.
  3. If someone has put the bread in his or her mouth, pull back the cups and tell them the pastor will give them another piece.
  4. Remember hospitality.  We are serving God’s banquet.
  5. When everyone has been served, watch to see whether anyone needs to be communed in the pews.  If so, follow the presiding minister down in order to serve the wine.

When you have finished serving

  1. Return the chalices to the altar, placing them on the corporal square.
  2. Step down (on the organ side of the altar) to receive communion.  The acolyte and organist will join you.  Normally you would stand.
  3. The presiding minister will serve the bread to you and the acolyte, then take up the glasses to offer you the wine.
  4. After you have communed, take the bread and give the presiding minister a piece with the words, “The body of Christ given for you.”  Place the bread back onto the corporal square.
  5. Take the glasses, offer the wine and grape juice with the words “The blood of Christ shed for you,” and return them to the corporal square.  (If Pastor Bonde or Berkland is presiding, you need only bring the wine glass.)

After the Distribution

  1. Place the purificators (napkins) over the two glasses
  2. Place the round cover over the bread (do not try to unfold or shake out the napkin the pastor has used to hold the bread; just cover it all).
  3. Lead the congregation in the post-communion prayer.

The conclusion of the service

  1. Following the post-communion prayer, the pastor will give the benediction.
  2. After the benediction we return to our seats for the recessional hymn.
  3. Follow the cross as it leads us out to our daily ministries.
  4. Stay at the base of the center aisle with the cross until the hymn is finished, then lead the congregation in the dismissal (“Go in peace, serve the Lord.”)

The Dismissal

  1. The scripture is God’s message to us.  Don’t be hesitant to proclaim the text of the dismissal verse.

Greeting the Congregation

  1. We ask that you greet people outside the front door (in nice weather) or outside the sanctuary doors in order to minimize noise in the sanctuary for those who wish to remain to listen to the postlude.
  2. Similarly, we ask that before the service you greet people out front or wait quietly on the back pew.  It is important that we not clog the entrance area or disturb those who are gathering in prayer or listening to the prelude.

Special Services or Responsibilities

  1. In certain seasons, occasions or feast days you may have special responsibilities.  It is important to review the service ahead of time. Parts that are marked with an A (except the sung parts of the Kyrie) are to be spoken by the Assisting Minister.  These changes are normally at the entrance rite/confession or during a baptism.
  2. Also, it is valuable to review the communion and offertory prayers.  They change by season or by feast day.


  1. Your place in the procession is immediately in front of the presiding minister, who enters or leaves last.  Normally you will enter or leave following the Bible bearer.
  2. When there is a procession, the cross will stop before the altar platform.  It is customary to pause and reverence Christ whose presence is signified by the cross, perhaps making the sign of the cross as one who has been joined with Christ, before taking your seat.
  3. Similarly, it is customary (but not necessary) to pause as you enter the altar area and make the sign of the cross, a reminder that we come to serve as those who belong to Christ, and a reminder that we are engaged in a holy task on Christ’s behalf.


  1. The recession normally follows the same pattern as the entrance.


  1. There are white robes (called an alb) in the closet in the sacristy – though we have not been wearing them in the summer.
  2. They are tied at the waist with a white rope called a cincture.


  1. When you serve, it is best to wear something with a pocket or belt for the microphone.  The assisting minister robes have slits to reach your clothes rather than pockets.  If necessary, there is a sash that can be worn over a robe that holds the main unit of the microphone.
  2. After you have put on your robe, you will need to go to the back of the sanctuary to get a microphone and a sound check.  You will leave your microphone on and the sound technicians will turn the sound up when you have a speaking role.  (Do listen, however, to be sure that your voice is not accidently broadcasting when it should not.)


For special services like Christmas and Easter it is very helpful both for you and the acolytes if you attend the rehearsal.  On any occasion if you want to review the service with Pastor Bonde he is more than happy to walk through it with you.