There must be many different ways to run an apprenticeship scheme. This is not intended to be a blueprint! It’s just how we’ve done it at Co-Mission. And how it’s evolved. In essence all you need for an apprenticeship scheme is a trainer, a trainee, a Bible and some ministry opportunities. And we mustn’t lose sight of that. What is now the South London Apprenticeship Scheme, run by the staff of Co-Mission, was once a pastor, three willing apprentices and a shed. And in many ways it was better back then!
In recent years the popularity of apprenticeship schemes has been growing, largely through the influence of the Ministry Training Strategy in Sydney. Two alternatives types of approach have been very popular in our constituency. I don’t wish to denigrate the alternatives on offer. But Apprenticeship schemes are intended to be very different from these alternatives.
1. Cornhill Type Training Courses provide students with lectures in a variety of modules.
The strength of these types of courses is that students get access to some of the best exponents in the various disciplines. They also join a large network of friends training in gospel ministry. Often the interaction with fellow students is hugely stimulating. It also releases the busy pastor-teacher from the burden of preparing the theological training aspect of an apprenticeship. But the input is inevitably classroom based. They sit in lectures. And most students need an extra day a week to prepare for class. Even if the course is taken over two years the time available for ministry in the local church is limited. But I want to encourage us not to farm out training too quickly. We can do it. And there’s real benefit in us doing it.
2. Pastoral Assistant Schemes provide opportunities to learn servant heartedness.
This kind of approach has existed for years. Classically students from universities with strong student ministries would send their graduating stars to Anglican evangelical churches around the country. The advantages are that younger men and women can get a taste of ministry before pursuing some secular work. The disadvantage is that they only ever experience Anglicanism! I may have misunderstood some pastoral assistant schemes, but it used to be the case that they were more about finding cheap labour for the mundane tasks in church than in training. They learnt that service is at the heart of all ministry. But they didn’t learn much in the way of ministry skills.
In Apprenticeships we try and take people who have a couple of year’s secular work under their belts. We’re not looking for gap year students and, unless they’re exceptional candidates. We tend not to look at recent graduates. Most of our congregations are young adults and young families. A little bit of separation in age from the evening congregation is helpful. This means that they may come with a working wife and that helps with finances. It may mean that they come with a young family, which really doesn’t!