Arthur and I have been having an ongoing conversation with someone at our church about training others for ministry. We’ve all agreed that we need to raise up others for ministry, but we’ve been discussing whether we need to train them as well. What’s the role of the Holy Spirit? How much should they just access the resources they need for themselves? What is the value of investing full time at Ridley or running a Bible study leadership course with new leaders? How much should intentional reflection with a mentor feature in a traineeship? It’s got me thinking about why it is that I place such a high value of training. There are some theological reasons and some pastoral reasons.
Most of my theological reasons come from looking at Paul and Timothy:
- Training is a biblical model. Paul and Timothy are a great example, but you could also look at Elijah/Elisha or even Jesus and the Twelve. But in each case, the trainer invested deeply in the trainee, including them in their own ministry, struggles and insights in order to equip, exhort and empower them.
- Maturity is a pre-requisite for leadership. I take it that’s what’s on view in 1 Tim 3:6 where Paul urges Timothy not to put a new believer into leadership. In our understanding of Christian maturity, it would be remiss to divorce theology and practice. I take it that’s what something like a Bible study leadership course does – teaches you how to love and shepherd others in the group.
- Gifts need to be ‘fanned into flame’. 2 Tim 1:6 has Paul telling Timothy to do this. I take it then, that gifts are not enough to be a good leader – they need to be worked at, honed and understood in their proper context. Sure, Paul gives the instruction to Timothy as a personal instruction, but I take it that doesn’t disqualify Timothy from being able to access other people and resources to train him, as Paul had in the past.
- The gospel must be entrusted to reliable people. (2 Tim 2:2) Christian leadership is not just about people management or being a facilitator. It’s about handling the word of God rightly as well (2 Tim 2:15). We need to make sure that those who lead and shepherd our people are well-founded in the gospel and that takes good training.
Most of my pastoral reasons for training come from my own experience, both of being trained and training others:
- Most people don’t ask for help and leadership. Even if you say, “come talk to me and I’ll help you out” most leaders don’t. Insisting on training provides an excuse and a forum to ask for help and makes it a requirement for those who think they can go it alone.
- Training provides a leader with confidence. Many people I’ve met doubt themselves in some way. Training not only grows a leader’s skills but grows their awareness that they have those skills so that they both are and feel equipped for ministry.
- Training can open up resources which may have previously been unknown to the trainee. You can find resources at Koorong or on the internet, but it’s often a case of trial and error as you try to find a good one. But if someone more experienced trains someone else using good resources, this process is much less haphazard.
- Training gives access to one of the greatest resources – the trainer. It’s not enough to put a Bible study leading manual in someone’s hands. There’s nothing like learning from another’s mistakes and hearing them reflect specifically on you and your strengths and weaknesses.
What do you think? What are other reasons to do training? What have been your experiences?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.