How old should one be to be involved in liturgical ministries?

I wanted to know what you all think how old someone should be to be involved in liturgical ministries such as:

Altar Server
Choir Member

For cantor and choir member, I think high school age is reasonable. For lector, I know that at my parish you have to have received the Sacrament of Confirmation to be a lector. For altar server, I know you have to be going into the 4th grade, or after receiving your First Holy Communion. I think to become a EMHC you have to be about 18 years old, which is I think my parish’s rule regarding that ministry. I never got a word on how old you have to be to cantor or become a choir member, but I’m assuming high school age.

I think I was an Altar Server at 9 or 10 but we had a boys choir for which it was a requirement that our voice had not started to change so we were definitely pre-teen.

I don’t even like the concept of an EMHC however, since they aren’t going to go away, I’d much prefer they at least be adults who presumably understand the full nature of what they are doing.

I remember reading at a Mass when I was in elementary school (it was a Mass for the Catholic elementary schools in the area), and I think it was before my confirmation but definitely after first communion (so sometime after grade 2 and before grade 6). I alter served when I was probably that young too.

Our college chapel has daily masses that are mostly attended by students, so most of the lay volunteers are university aged, including the readers, the server, and the EMHC (just to make it more fun, you may get asked up to right before the Mass starts to volunteer because there’s no set schedule for the daily Masses. Not to mention the time the priest forgot to ask someone to read and had to ask when the 1st reading came up :blush:. Poor guy, excellent priest though).

In our parish children may become altar servers if they are 8 and have received their First Communion. For 9 years that meant they had also been confirmed since the sacraments had been returned to their original order.

They can start to read when they demonstrate that they are able to do so to serve the parish rather than their parents’ ego. We’ve had a couple of wonderful 9-10 year old readers but most would start in their mid-teens - we don’t have any young readers at the moment, the youngest is in her 30s . At weekday Masses nobody is assigned to read, whoever is comfortable just gets up and does it and it’s often not someone who appears on our readers list.

Choir only has one teen singer because we have few teens and young adults who attend Mass. The adult and children choir (ages 4 to about 10) sometimes combines for some celebrations.

We have no policies on EMHCs except that they have to be confirmed. At present none of them are under 50.

In our parish you have to be out of high school to join the choir (it’s called the Adult Choir). There is a smaller group that sings at one of the Masses and I think teens can sing with it, but I’ve never seen any. To Cantor, you have to be an adult with vocal training.

There is a Lifeteen Mass during the school year, and at that one the teens do the singing and cantoring.

Cantor/Choir Member (with the exception of a trained boys choir): A semi-trained mature voice. Age wise this would probably mean late teens for girls, 18+ for men.

Altar boys: training in the summer after First Communion (note no max age)

Reader (qualifications for the instituted ministry of Lector are/ought to be set by the diocese): Adult

EMHC: also adult

This is what I think it should be, not necessarily the way it is in my parish.:smiley:

Cantor - should be an adult
Lector - an adult male according to the requirements of the diocese programs for instituted lectors.
(If you just mean a reader, an adult who has shown him/herself to be fully involved in the parish **)
Altar Server - after First Communion
EMHC - adult, active member of the parish
Choir Member - no age requirement

** exception for Masses that are predominantly attended by children, such as those in the Catholic schools.

I’m looking at this as all taking place at a Sunday Mass.

Cantor - I think it’s more important to truly be able to sing than be a certain age. However, I would say you need to be at least in High School.
Lector - Have received all Sacraments of Initiation. About 8th Grade.
Altar Server - At least 3rd grade and have received first Eucharist (maybe)
EMHC - 21!!! (Now that I’m 21 :wink: )To be an Instituted Acolyte in America you must be 21 and properly formed. Instituted Acolytes are the original and first in line of the EMHC. I think they should all be up to that standard. I know that 21 is the age in the Diocese of Arlington.
Choir Member - 3rd grade and can sing. We shouldn’t have little children up there that can’t really sing just because mommy and daddy wanna see their baby sing.

Of course, this is all IMHO.


I pretty much agree on later ages for most of these (except for alter servers. If they are boys, they should start as early as possible so that they hopefully have a chance at becoming priests). However, there was a cantor at St. Peter’s in Florida that had a young cantor (by young, I mean I was worried we had stepped into a children’s Mass or something. She was young). I was upset because I thought the singing was going to suck… then she started to sing and I realized that I had once again been wrong. She had a mature voice on par with a middle age woman’s, and her voice was beautiful.

Not that I’m saying that cantors should be allowed at a young age, just that even when one says “you must be X years old to do Y”, there needs to be an ability to bend the rules for extraordinary circumstances.


Corki is right here, we do need to make a distinction between a reader and a lector. A lector is a male who is preparing for ordination. It’s the same thing with an acolyte (which is why when asked if they had any female acolytes by the Vatican Canada said no. We only had female alter servers).

The liturgical ministries are not supposed to be reserved to seminarians.

The national bishops’ conferences get to decide what the requirements are to become an instituted Lector or Acolyte and, unfortunately, the CCCB has decided that in Canada one of the requirements was that one had to be seeking ordination.

Be nice if they ignored the rest of Ministeria Quaedam then and restored the whole of the minor orders.:shrug:

I didn’t mean the ministries, I just meant the title. In any case, it’s really just a semantic run-around. Is there really a difference between having an lay instituted lector and a reader? If you want to be legalistic then yes, but liturgically they fulfill the same function (read the 1st/2nd Reading/Psalm if there’s no cantor/choir).

Whoa whoa what!? Canada is doing something more traditional than the US of A? :stuck_out_tongue:

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