Monday, 14 December 2009

Review of Ministerial Training

I’m interested in your opinion.  Next week I’m at a meeting with the BUGB department of ministry and reps from the other Baptist colleges to take a reflective look at congregationally based training.  If you have any views on the pros and cons of this pattern of ministerial formation I’d love to hear them.


Catriona said...

I am interested in this because I wasn't allowed to do it. Not that I'm sulking ten years on or anything... ;-)

From the perspective of someone who spent as many hours per week working in churches as those on that pattern, but with no financial income for 3 of the 4 (the biggest gripe we 'college based' folk had) some thoughts...

The congregation-based folk certainly had opportunities I didn't such as baptisms, weddings and funerals but obviously these brought with them pressures I didn't have either.

Ostensibly, congregation-based folk had more tensions to deal with - they were 'the minister' so felt they needed to give greater priority to church than to study. On the other hand (good Jewish/Baptist genes coming in here)they also had properly defined breaks and holiday entitlements that we didn't.

Many cong-based folk seemed to find the transition to full time ministry harder than they anticipated because now they had to do it all and the congregation weren't as kind as their student places had been. I had no such worries - I had been preaching more often than many cong-based folk and had lesser expectations from my first congregation of gentleness.

For me, the placements were what you made of them. I was allowed to do pretty much anything and everything and enjoyed getting involved in as much of church life as I could. Apart from 'occasional offices' which I did not get until my last year, and then mainly from 'outside' of church, I did much the same as others on cong-based patterns.

The money issue, mumbling aside, is real. I sold up to train and lived completely by faith for the first two years when my placements didn't even pay expenses never mind preaching fees; my third year was preaching fees and mileage only and even my final year, negotiated by college, and for which I was very grateful was barely enough to cover rent and food. Cong-based training with its financial package makes it possible for people to follow their calling which their pocket or faith would not allow. Interesting how it is the more "liberal" among us who do the 'live by faith' thing....!

I have no regrets about my training pattern. The ecumenical dimension was invaluable, being skint was good preparation for ministerial life (!) and the opportunity to study and reflect was a real privilege.

None of this probably fits what you are seeking, but tyg.

simon said...

I've always been a bit iffy about church-based training. When I facilitate a small at the NAMs conference - with ministers in their fourth year post-college - I am frequently stunned at how sparse their theological toolbox is.

I think this is probably because church-based students just don't have enough time to reflect or to chew the fat over late night drinks with fellow students which are so valuable in forming a theological imagination which is crucial for effective ministry.

But my beef with all ministerial development is that it presupposes that we are training people for inherited church and thus they need to cut their teeth in a traditional congregation, focused on sunday ministry.

You and I know that this is increasingly not only not the case but is leaving church's unable to navigate their way through the choppy waters of social change.

Surely, the core competences need to include forming relationships within the community not just the church, leading groups in pubs and cafes, establishing projects that meet local need, etc.

Those called to pioneer mission are still forced by MRC and the colleges (sorry!) to jump through the trad church hoops even though they feel called by God to do anything but go and lead an inherited church family.

Like Catriona, I'm not sure if this is what you were wanting. But I hope it helps

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