The Bible isn’t prescriptive about what to include in an apprenticeship scheme. For my money I think we need to ask what are we aiming for before we decide what we’re trying to do. Surely, what we provide in terms of training has to be shaped by what we think we need to produce. What we need to produce are men who fit the description of pastor-teachers given in the New Testament. The New Testament in places like 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and parallel passages, describes three characteristics of pastor-teachers;
- an ability to teach,
- progress in holiness and
- evidence of household leadership
We look for each one of these three characteristics in potential apprentices and then look to develop them. Obviously one of the key features of the Apprenticeship Scheme is the training we provide. We aim to provide training in the following three areas.
1. We aim to strengthen their Theological Knowledge
Our aim is to instil within our apprentices deep convictions of the necessity and nature of gospel ministry. But we do so in the context of practical experience. We’re not trying to replace the formal theological training that some might undergo at College. It’s our experience that an apprenticeship, though it delays attendance at college, enriches their experience when they get there. Experience of gospel ministry creates an appetite for further study. Our guys have benefitted from encountering real life ministry isseus because it’s made them acutely aware of their need to think through issues in order to help the people they’re called to serve. For example, in an apprenticeship one of their group might serisouly struggle with issues of co-dependency. Most young men haven’t really thought much about that. But when they get to college and the Pastoral Counselling course offers that as an essay option, he’ll realise the value of working hard.
How do we aim to strengthen their theological knowledge?
- Wednesday morning Apprenticeship Workshop which includes exegetical skills DVD from Cornhill, expositions critiqued by the staff team, ministry issues discussion and doctrine groups.
- Book of the term; one book a term to read and discuss as part of a ministry group. We mix up the books and the idea is to get people used to reading and thinking theologically.
- Preparation of Bible teaching in a variety of contexts; children’s ministry, kids’ slots, doctrine slots, Home Group Leaders’ prep.
We encourage three types of questions in our free ministry discussion
1. Questions the apprentices have been asked by others in the course of exercising their ministries during the week
2. Questions they are beginning to ask themselves as they get stuck into ministry – new ideas, areas, etc
3. Questions that don’t come out of the local context at all but relate to the bigger picture – world church, national issues, etc.
2. We aim to encourage the formation of Godly Character
Given that the foremost prerequisite for church leaders is godliness, our aim is to advance holiness as one of the chief passions amongst our apprentices. It means that we value godliness above giftedness.
How do we aim to encourage their godly character?
- Ongoing informal assessment through evaluation and feedback. When we do things together there’s a natural opportunity to reflect on what’s been going on and provide encouragement and comment.
- Meeting up once a term for formal assessment. During this interview we’ll cover a fair bit of ground. It’s deliberately more structured and just makes sure that we cover the bases in a two year period so that nothing gets missed. One aspect of this formal evaluation process is to seek the comments of one or two others who have seen them at work. In particular I want the view of an older woman, an older man and a young Mum so that I can help them think through how accessible their ministry is across teh spectrum of people in a church.
3. We aim to equip them with appropriate Ministry Skills
Our aim is to provide apprentices with the toolbox of skills that they’ll need for ministry. We want them to deepen their evangelistic passion, develop their strategic nous, grow their leadership abilities and generate some people skills. In so doing, we’re trying to make them generalists not specialists. We expect them to work in churches much like ours. God willing they’ll be involved in new church plants where they’ll need to be able to do everything reasonably well.
How do we aim to equip them with ministry skills?
- We throw them into a wide variety of ministry contexts; the preach at our two meetings, they prepare Bible studies, they teach the kids, they run CE groups, they read the Bible one to one with people, etc
- Participation in Christian camps like CYFA so that they learn about gathering and motivating a team, planning, designing a teaching programme, organising events etc
At teh more formal and structured end of things, that’s what we try and do with them. Obviously an apprenticeship ought to be a deepening relational experience and so there is more to be said about that. I’ll do that in another post.