Growing in character while gaining experience in ministry life is the aim of a Ministers-in-Training programme run by the Free Church of Scotland.
Thirteen candidates are taking part in the programme, which is coordinated by the Board of Ministry in partnership with Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS). The venture means that candidates can be taught at ETS and get on-the-job training in churches across Scotland.
Rev Thomas Davis, of Carloway Free Church is involved in the Student Team within the Board of Ministry. He said: ‘We work with local churches and presbyteries to help potential candidates for ministry through the application process. Alongside this, we oversee the development of suitable training schemes in local churches and work with ETS to ensure that the theological education provided will equip candidates for ministry.’
Three candidates, who are serving in different areas around Scotland, have shared their experiences of the programme.
Phil Pickett, Minister-in-Training, began the Ministers-in-Training programme at St Andrew’s Free Church and moved to Carloway Free Church earlier this year. Phil, who is now in his fifth year out of six, has spoken about his experiences on the programme, highlighting the importance of discipleship within his own journey.
He said: ‘The church wants people to be disciples making disciples, to be fishers of men, and to equip them to do this.’
‘I am where I am because of the investment of others through one-to-one discipleship and mentoring. If we want to raise up gospel workers, it is vital that we invest in discipleship at every stage in the Christian life, not just once people become ministers in training.’
Phil says this view of discipleship comes from the experiences he has had growing up and growing in faith.
He has shared his testimony saying: ‘I grew up in a Christian home, knowing Jesus as my Lord. As I got older, I learned more of what it meant to follow him.’
‘At school, being a Christian was about defending why God exists. At University (St Andrew’s) I saw the effect of the gospel in transforming people’s lives. This grew my desire to be engaged in full-time gospel ministry.’
Following university, Phil completed a two-year training programme with Cornhill while working for St Andrew’s Free Church. He then joined Edinburgh Theological Seminary part-time and began as Minister in Training at St Andrew’s, where he stayed for three and a half years. In January, he moved to the Isle of Lewis, with his wife, to be Minister in Training at Carloway Free Church.
He explained the benefit of the Minister in Training programme for him, saying: ‘It gave me time to grow in life experience and Christian maturity while I learned. It gave me time to experience ministry life. It gave me time to experience ecclesiastical life, to find out the ways of Free Church life – Kirk Sessions, Presbytery and General Assembly etc.’
During these experiences, ‘the principles of ministry are being laid down. It’s wonderful to learn these skills,’ he said.
Phil reflected that he has had to balance time between immediate pastoral ministry and ETS. He said that the opportunity to move to a different demographic had given him a broader ministry experience.
For Angus Macleod, Minister-in-Training at Haddington Community Church, the programme has been an opportunity for him to grow in his ministry, to learn from others and to be part of a close-knit church family.
He said: ‘Ali Sewell, the minister, has helped the church to feel part of my training. The congregation has been able to see my progress. They have given me feedback which has been useful. They are really encouraging and supportive. I’ve learnt from others within the church, and there is a real sense of us being a family.’
Angus, who is in his final year of the Ministers-in-Training programme, has been training at Haddington for the past couple of years. This is alongside studying at ETS.
Angus, who is from Lewis, worked as an electrician before becoming a Christian. He first attended the Church of Scotland before joining High Free Church in Stornoway. He has since completed training at Cornhill in Glasgow, Stirling Free Church and Chalmers Church in Edinburgh.
He says he has benefitted from the Ministers-in-Training programme and encourages others to join too. ‘There are a lot of people – those in church and ETS – supporting me to become a minister. I’d encourage other people to go for it too. People come from all over the country to study and take part in the training. There are training opportunities everywhere.’
Davi de Paula, who is a Minister-in-Training at Burghead Free Church, has shared his testimony and his experiences of being part of the programme.
He grew up in a Christian home. His father Alberto de Paula is the minister at Broughty Ferry Presbyterian Church. As a teenager, Davi went to Glasgow Caledonian University to study audio and electronics.
He said: ‘I was quite involved in the CU, so I went on to work as a relay worker with UCCF. Through conversation with Craig Anderson (who was at UCCF at the time and is now church planting in Galashiels), I looked at what long-term ministry would look like.’
Following his time at UCCF, Davi spent two years at Chalmers Church in Edinburgh and completed training with Cornhill. ‘After that, full-time ministry was still on the cards for me,’ he said.
He and his wife Emma moved north to join Burghead Free Church.
‘These small places are unique in their make-up,’ he said. ‘Burghead is used to newcomers. There is an air base and army base nearby. You just need to get stuck into the community.’
‘Burghead has been a good fit for me. Having a mentor (Rev Peter Turnbull) who is willing to show me different aspects of ministry has been helpful. For example, meeting grieving families, planning and being part of various aspects of ministry have all been beneficial.’
Davi has also become an elder at Burghead Free Church which has been important in getting to grips with being involved in the church. ‘It’s been a really good experience – both in the Free Church and being up in the north.’
He added, ‘I’d encourage churches, ministers, smaller congregations and larger congregations to take on a minister in training.’
About the Ministers-in-Training programme
Ministers-in-Training can be taken on in congregations that have a minister. This is to ensure they are supported in their training, both in the practical side and through learning at ETS.
How can churches help the Ministers-in-Training programme?
- Pray for candidates, ETS, Board of Ministry and Training Churches
- Support the programme financially, either through partnering with individual candidates or training churches, or by increased donation to central funds.
- Considering having a minister in training in your own congregation.
For more details, go to: freechurch.org/apply-for-ministry
Rev Thomas Davis said: ‘The work of ministry is always done in God’s strength and for his glory. We have a huge mission field on our doorstep so we need to continue to pray as Jesus commands us for workers to be sent out into the harvest field. We would encourage individuals to prayerfully consider whether this might be God’s calling on their life. We also encourage churches to prayerfully recognise, encourage, and guide those with the gifts and abilities the Bible requires for pastor-teachers. And may we all pray with urgency but also great confidence, knowing that God will raise up those he has equipped for his work, for his glory, and to fulfil his purposes.’