7 March, 2013 Ed Moll
Training people for ministry is an enormous privilege, in which we trainers act as just one link in the chain of events used by God to bring about his purposes in the lives of his children. If you are a trainer or are about to be a trainer, here are some training basics to bear in mind.
A. Knowledge, skills and character
The three dimensions of ministry training are knowledge, skills and character.
- Servants of the word need to know the Bible, and many Gospel Partnerships have a Ministry Training Course that delivers such knowledge.
- Ministry skills are best taught in the context of an apprenticeship where the trainee can be prepared, introduced, supervised and coached in the tasks of ministry, and regular feedback can be given by a trainer.
- Finally, you should set aside time for the deliberate formation of Christian character through Bible reading, prayer and reflective discussions. With female trainees I share this aspect with an older Christian woman in the congregation.
B. Learning, consolidation and development
Three stages of progress in learning skills are to learn, consolidate, and develop. (The stages can be applied to other areas too). For example, a trainee might:
- learn to use Christianity Explored for the first time by taking part in a course as a table leader;
- consolidate their knowledge by leading again and again until they become familiar with the material;
- and finally, use their knowledge to develop others in leading a training session for new table leaders.
Or a trainee might learn to lead a Sunday congregational meeting; consolidate their confidence in doing so, and – building on that knowledge – develop the format of the meeting to include new elements.
When should training take place?
1. Everything is a training opportunity. Every business meeting and staff meeting is an opportunity to explain why we do things the way we do, and why it matters. Every interruption is an opening to show that how we respond (character) can be as important as what we do (skills). Show your workings where possible.
2. Meet regularly. Trainees need time, especially in the first few months, to talk through new tasks, to reflect on new experiences, to ask questions. Don’t leave them to beg you for time: book the meetings in your diary and stick to them if at all possible so that the trainees know that they matter to you.
3. Don’t waste mistakes - yours or others’. Talk your trainees through their mistakes, or they might assume that they are so useless that you’re counting the days until they can leave. Be willing to admit to your own mistakes, so that they see how you learn from them. Honesty about weakness is deeply authentic in Christian relationships. Mistakes are good for reminding all of us to minister in the Lord’s strength and not in our own.
4. Expect upset because training involves change. Every time someone new joins the staff team you will need to work at restoring the balance of pastoral relationships. Talk the whole team through issues of loyalty, confidentiality and teamwork every time there is a change. Don’t allow your staff to be trapped in a poor training relationship: take initiative to resolve issues, and consider appointing another person (e.g. elder; church warden) that they can turn to if they feel stuck.
5. Train the congregation about the role of a trainee long before the trainee joins you. Make clear what the trainees are – and are not – available to do, and how to join you in praying for the trainees entrusted to your church.
6. Have fun! It can be infectious.