When a two-year apprenticeship is too short

Jodie McNeill

One of the joys and frustrations of my ministry apprenticeship was that it had to finish after two years. I had joined the ministry team of my home church, but it was with the expectation that after the two years I would leave my church and head off to four years of theological study.

This model was right for me. I loved ministry in my local church, and my hunger for it drove me to leave to study theology so that I would be well prepared for a lifetime of ministry, as it did.

With this in mind, more than a decade later, I established the MTS Outdoor Ministry Apprenticeship at Youthworks Outdoors. The plan was for these MTS apprentices to spend two years in youth and children's ministry in the context of outdoor education, which would then be followed by two years of theological training.

The theological training we recommended was that provided by Youthworks College. The idea was that students could be trained in theology for half the week, and serve in outdoor ministry for the remainder of that week.

Unfortunately, the rhythms of the calendar are quite different for an outdoor ministry than a parish ministry. In NSW especially, the lion share of the ministry happens in the warmer months, leaving the winter months ideally suited for more intense training and preparation.

So, the original plan seemed so near to what we needed, yet so far!

From this challenge came a solution that we believe will work to see people well-trained and thoroughly-equipped for a lifetime of ministry, whether in the outdoor context or otherwise.

Instead of adopting the 'normal' academic year, we will now be offering apprentices the opportunity to spend most days in the warmer months bringing the Word to children and youth, and spend the winter months of their second and four years being taught subjects in the Diploma of Theology.

To complement this theological training, apprentices will train for a Certificate III in Outdoor Recreation in first year, and then a Certificate IV in their third year.

Four years of ministry experience, coupled with training in the hard skills of outdoor recreation, and the soft skills of theology.

Unlike many ministry apprenticeships, this apprenticeship will include all the training necessary so that graduates will go straight into full-time, paid, vocational ministry. And then, in future years, graduates of this program can articulate straight into the second year at Moore College to further develop their ministry.

Outdoor ministry is a specialist ministry. It is ideal for people who love being active. If we are to recruit all kinds of people into Word ministry, we need to be prepared to adapt our training models.

What other training models need adapting in order to recruit and equip for the variety of ministries open to the next generation?

Jodie McNeill is the Executive Director of Youthworks Outdoors. Jodie is looking for ten new MTS Outdoor Ministry Apprentices to start in September. Applications close on July 23. Visit outdoorministry.youthworks.net for details.

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