Many churches hum along for quite a while, relatively self-contained. This is especially true of larger churches, spanning a wide range of life stages. They can be self-sufficient, even in raising up future leaders, including future full-time gospel workers, on their own, year after year. Other churches can take proactive steps to improve their leadership pathways, to become more effective in this area, if more sporadic. But the best outcome for a city or region, or state or country is to think bigger. To work towards patterns of behaviours and relationships and healthy institutions that work across the whole. This is true for ministry training and recruitment as with many other dimensions of ministry.
The Wider Christian World Strengthens Ministry Recruitment
Local churches benefits a great deal from camaraderie with other churches, both within the same denomination and through non-denominational networks. Conferences and other events and ministries strengthen a vision for gospel ministry and provide multiple models and means for those thinking about Christian leadership. We will help one another in raising up the next generation if we proactively invest in ways to overlap with one another.
The Wider Christian Network Enriches Ministry Training
The best ministry training is not just hiring low-paid ministry interns and giving them a youth group to run. The best ministry training programs invest in trainees through management, mentoring, coaching and training. Most trainees will be enthusiastic when they are given the opportunity to attend conferences and combined training times. Even if they are reluctant, I believe they should be required to, as a part of their leadership development. A ministry trainee shouldn’t be too busy doing ministry to be learning and growing while on the job.
Beyond workshops and conferences, there are other ways to provide rich and varied ministry formation. Church leaders should consider whether they could build some external ministry into traineeships: working one day per week with a campus ministry, going on a short-term mission to another church or ministry, serving on a conference committee, helping on a summer camp or perhaps submitting an article to TGCA! Building a collaborative dimension into ministry training programs not only makes the training more rounded, it also sets a healthy trajectory for future ministry patterns.
Set Future Gospel Ministers on a Trajectory of Gospel Ecosystem Thinking
It’s likely that how you were recruited and trained in ministry will influence how you conduct your full-time work later on. If your ministry training was entirely local-church-focussed, it’s more than likely that your mature leadership patterns will be similarly insular. This pattern might then in turn shape the degree to which your whole congregation participates in the wider gospel ecosystem.
I am convinced that part of the job of a Christian leader (whether a pastor, deacon, chaplain, youth leader, ‘M leader’, bishop, theologian or campus evangelist) should be to serve the wider Christian community. I think it is unhealthy when Christian leaders become absorbed in their local work, and the brute necessities of denominational service. It’s usually unhealthy for their own wellbeing, their fruitfulness and for the wider gospel ecosystem.
So I encourage you: train up a gospel minister in the way in which they should go, investing in the wider Christian movement, and they will not depart from it.