I’ve talked frequently about the need for vocational/in context training for Gospel ministry. This arises out of
- A local vision to see people planting and replanting churches into the urban West Midlands
- A belief that we need to be on a mission footing rather than in maintenance mode across the UK.
These things both lead me to the conclusion that we need a lot more people trained for Gospel ministry from a wider range of backgrounds. Whilst I believe that traditional Theological Colleges have a part to play in that I think that there are three challenges concerning them. First, if we are serious then those colleges don’t have the capacity required to meet the need. Secondly, a lot of people simply wouldn’t be able to access their content dues to a variety of constrains. Thirdly, I’m not sure that Theological College counts as training, it’s education and teaching but I think training is different and needs to be in context and hands on.
My own desire therefore would be to have two or three people come and work with me for a few years. They would be based in neighbourhoods with the mission of beginning to reach their community with the Gospel. We would be praying that their witness would result in churches being planted.
I would love to see others have a similar vision for their towns and cities. Now, on the basis of that I would think that we wouldn’t want to be too prescriptive about what the local training on the ground looked like in terms of teaching styles, number of people involved or the exact shape of a syllabus.
Instead, what we should be aiming to do is to agree the desired outcomes. In effect, a standard for pastors/planters in the UK. We’d be looking to identify the core competencies and characteristics for a pastor. This would mean that rather than prescribing he specific books to read and lectures to hear, we’d be asking a set of questions about where that person needed to be and the gaps that needed to be closed. The content covered and how we covered it would vary from person to person.
My expectation would be that anyone participating in such training would be assessed against the following competencies. This would be signed off by their mentor and verified by a second pastor from another church/context.
The key competencies are
- Able to teach God’s Word in a variety of contexts including 1-1
- The specific competency to preach to a gathering.
- Evangelism and Apologetics
- Pastoral care and counselling
- Leadership and decision making
- Personal character and qualities in line with 1 Timothy 3.
Similar to apprentices following national vocational programmes they would be able to build up a portfolio of evidence which might include a record of practical experience, evidence from their own submitted work (e.g. a recording of a talk) and details of any course modules they’ve attended. The content of their training might include a mixture of material developed in house at the church they are partnering with or bought in modules for example from Crosslands, Union, Oak Hill or London Seminary.
Rather than just choosing a module to cover because a trainee had to pick options to build up credits, each year, their mentor would sit with them, evaluate where they were in terms of the core competencies and what they needed to cover.
I’m continuing to look for people who are interested in this approach to planting and training to partner with. Please get in touch via the contact form if you are interested.