Pathways to Ministry27 Feb 2014 By James Atkinson
Emily Simpson has been investigating the different routes available to those who want to enter into ministry. This is a really useful overview.
As Christians, our calling is to spread the Good News to everyone, to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone’ as it says in Mark 16 verse 15. And Self-Supporting Ministers (SSMs) are no different - whether they are Ministers in Secular Employment (MSE) or other forms of Non-Stipendiary Ministers (NSMs), SSMs are called to witness, to take people as they are and minister to them in an environment where they are comfortable and on equal terms, both in the parish and in other situations.
Whilst stipendiary ordinands feel the call of God to become a parish priest, for those who are Ministers in Secular Employment, this calling is linked to their desire to speak God’s word in the secular workplace. So, an MSE can be anything from a teacher to politician, but they are always driven by a desire to see the influence of Christ and the Gospel in their workplace.
Jane Fraser, MSE and honorary Canon of Worcester cathedral, works in the field of sexual health. For many, this would seem to be a surprising, perhaps unsuitable, sector in which to have placed a minister. However, in the booklet ‘You Do What?’ Jane, and other MSEs, offer their stories and experiences to give others insight into what their jobs entail and how their vocation as a minister affects their work life.
They share a variety of anecdotes and examples of when their role as a minister has impacted their workplace, or sector of work, significantly.
As Jane says:
"Although we are all licensed to a particular parish – both to help in whatever way is appropriate or needed, and to have a spiritual base to ‘ground’ us in the life of the church – we do also have a freedom to go where the Spirit leads us and tread a different path to that of the parish priest if we feel called to do so.
The majority of NSM's work in parishes fulfilling a priestly ministry of leading worship and prayer, offering pastoral care, preaching and teaching in the same way as their stipendiary colleagues.
Ordinands and curates are the future of the church. They are the next generation of vicars, the people who are going to lead the church in the next season. It’s not always an easy road to follow, with years of training and studying as well as practical work on placements.
For Hazel Charlton, this training was a life changing experience. She studied part time at Queen’s Foundation Birmingham alongside working with the Mother’s Union in prisons and made firm friendships with those she met at the college who still meet up twice a year to encourage one another.
For Hazel, being a curate is very much about the people and the diversity that they bring.
"When I was at Queen’s, I loved the variety of people: those from other denominations, vicars from other countries studying post graduate courses. There was a sense of ecumenical community."
People create the biggest challenges, but also give the greatest joy.
"Being a vicar is about bringing teams together and about finding the delicate balance between the needs and wants of a congregation and what is realistic and feasible."
Ordination is not something that Hazel had considered, despite the fact that people had told her that she ought to go into the Church.
"It was not until I heard an ordinand speak, until I heard her answer questions I had never even thought to ask, that I realised I should become ordained. It was a light bulb moment!"
For some people ordination is a calling recognised in childhood, for others it is something that only becomes apparent after we think we’ve got everything sorted.
Thinking of becoming a self-supporting minister? Find out more.
Lay Ministers/ Readers
If you have a gifting for teaching, preaching, worship and pastoral care then you might just be suited to becoming a Lay Minister, also known as Readers. Lay ministers do all of these things and have other responsibilities besides.
For Mike Bunclark, the core of Lay Ministry is teamwork.
"We work with ordained ministers, ministering to the church. What makes Reader ministry unique is the fact that we work as a shared part of the Church alongside ALMs, the clergy and those without a formal licence such as church wardens."
The main aim of a Lay Minister is to be of help and of service, to support the clergy and to make a difference to those in our parishes.
Mark decided to become a Reader as he was approaching retirement, having already been a Churchwarden and holding other responsibilities in the Church. It was something he chose to do to be of help and service.
However, there are so many different ways to serve within your parish – with or without being licensed! Why not simply offer to welcome people into church on a Sunday morning? Or help serve coffee and tea? Service is about figuring out your place within your church community, whether it’s doing something seemingly small and insignificant or whether it’s preaching to the congregation.
We all have a role to play, but if you feel specifically led to Lay Ministry, contact Sheila Banyard on 01905 773134. Find out more.
Authorised Lay Ministry (ALM)
If you were to become an Authorised Lay Minister, or ALM as they’re more commonly known, one of the first things you’d have to do would be to choose your specific area of ministry. Would you be a worship leader? Could you work with children? How about evangelism?
Peter Penhallow picked evangelism. In fact, it was his passion for evangelism, and the desire for the lost to know Jesus, that led him to become an ALM in the first place.
"When I became a Christian, I was filled with a new spirit and a desire to share my experiences with other people. I wanted to bring church to the people, not take people to church."
Being a relatively new Christian, Peter wants to reach as many people as he can for the Lord and being an ALM with a specific interest in evangelism has allowed him to do this.
"It wasn’t a difficult decision to become an ALM. All I want to do is spread the Good News!"
What’s so unique about ALMs is that they have a specific ministry in which they are particularly involved. They have recognised their gifting and use it for God’s glory and to extend his Kingdom.
But you don’t have to be an ALM to utilise the gifts God has given you. For, as it says in Matthew 25 verse 21, those who are faithful with a few things will be put in charge of many things. We should be stepping out in our talents and gifts, blessing others and serving God.
Interested in becoming an ALM? Find out more.