When is the best time to do a ministry apprenticeship? The most common time is a few years after high school or university; you’re not yet invested in your career and you’re less restricted by financial commitments. But what if you’ve been working for more than a few years? You’ve had promotion after promotion, you’ve signed a mortgage, or what if you just really love your job? Is it too late to start a ministry apprenticeship? Have you missed the boat?

I first heard about ministry apprenticeship at university, but it wasn’t until fourteen years later that I started doing my own apprenticeship. I had been blessed by the ministry of many apprentices and I was convinced of their value. Each year post-graduation, I toyed with the idea of doing an apprenticeship, but I wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge. And each year, as I got older and as I got further into my career, an apprenticeship was feeling less and less possible. I started to wonder whether I had missed the boat.

A traineeship in your thirties is very different to a traineeship in your early twenties. The costs of doing an apprenticeship felt greater but my work experience gave my apprenticeship a different flavour.


The Financial and Career Cost

I hadn’t fully appreciated the warnings about the greater financial cost of doing an apprenticeship later in life. I had grown comfortable with my corporate salary, taking my annual pay rise for granted, and relying on it to stay on top of mortgage repayments. Before I began my apprenticeship, my trainer showed me the minimum wage that I would be paid and I nearly pulled the plug then and there. Not only was it a significant pay cut, I would be relying on the partnership and generosity of friends and family to fund me. But a friend wisely pointed out that the difference in salary would only get bigger the longer I delayed and that gave me a nudge I needed.

I’d been working in my law firm for seven years. I’d started at a graduate level, moved teams, changed roles and eventually progressed to a role that gave me the autonomy and responsibility I wanted. I had worked hard to prove my value, endured the undesirable tasks, and had finally landed in a position perfect for me. The idea of giving that up scared me. If I gave it up, I’d have to start from the beginning again.

But it wasn’t my efforts alone that got me there: it was God’s provision. It was by God’s grace that I had my job and by his grace that my work was valued and rewarded. If God wanted me in a similar role in the future, he would provide it. I had always prided myself on not making my job part of my identity, but it was only when I had to consider giving it up that I realised how tightly I was holding on. It wasn’t my hours and efforts that secured my role, it was God. This humbling realisation allowed me to loosen my grasp.

There’s nothing like giving up your ‘hard-earned’ salary, relying on financial support from others and stepping back from a job you’d spent almost a decade working towards to experience the reality of being in God’s hands.


Moving from Law to Gospel Ministry

Starting a traineeship meant starting a new workplace and a new job. The similarities and differences hit me all at once. It took a while to adjust from a fast-paced corporate mindset to the slower, people-focussed environment. I’d gone from ‘What is the business case for this?’ to ‘What will help us love person X?’.

At the same time, managing my calendar with weekly team meetings and admin tasks felt familiar. Years of juggling client calls and managing team members, made it easy to adopt a new daily schedule and plan various activities. It takes time to adjust to working full-time. Although it felt strange to be back at the beginning learning a new role, learning to navigate full-time work wasn’t a factor.

Through my legal work I’d been exposed to many different people, built a better understanding of myself and others. I had insight into the lives of the other workers in my church, the people I was now serving in my ministry apprenticeship. The training I had received in my previous job had also made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses as I started this new role.


Nothing Is Wasted in God’s Economy

It can be tempting to think that my years of uni, my admission as a lawyer and my time at my law firm was a waste. But nothing is wasted in God’s economy. The goal isn’t simply working towards full-time ministry, but growing in godliness. And God’s promise to grow us isn’t limited to full-time ministry. At each stage of my life, God has been working in me and changing me. The Dhanu that was fresh out of university wasn’t ready to consider full-time ministry, but during my years in the workforce, God was opening my eyes to understand his character, his purposes and the world around me better. And the skills and insight developed at work can now be used to serve people at church. None of it was a waste.


How Are You Going to Serve Jesus with Your Life?

You may be finishing up at university or considering your next move. Maybe you’re settled in your job and feeling like you’ve missed the ministry apprenticeship boat. Or maybe you’ve never wanted to catch that boat. For all believers, the question is how are we going to serve Jesus with our life? Wherever you are, there will be opportunities to grow in faith, or be equipped in some kind of ministry. And there will always be costs in any circumstances, at any stage of life. God can use each of our situations and experiences for his purpose, there’s no one ideal profile. And don’t rule out an apprenticeship because you think you’ve missed the boat. There are a lot of good reasons why ministry training may not be right for you, but don’t let age, finances or your career be one of them.