“Few of those contacting Bible colleges [to ask for help in finding a pastor] have invested in theological education over the years. Some will have helped fund a member in training. Hardly any will have adopted one or more of the theological colleges and systematically invested in the training of a new generation of Christian leaders.”
Those are the words of Kerry Orchard, Development Manager at WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology). He’s right, of course. Most churches only realise the value of theological colleges when they need a new pastor.
What has caused this lack of investment in theological training? Colleges must accept their part of responsibility. Many training institutions have not always been as committed to building partnerships with local churches as they perhaps should have been. But before we point the finger too readily, let’s remember that colleges are there to serve the church, not lead the church. The church must take primary responsibility. Perhaps it is fairer to say that many churches have not been as committed to building partnerships with Bible colleges as we should have been. And much more importantly, many churches have not been as committed to training men for the ministry as we should have been. As a result, investment in training a new generation of Christian leaders is very low across independent churches.
We need to put that right. In a previous post, we considered the costs of funding theological education. They’re staggering. With living expenses and course fees, around £50,000 would be needed to train a married man for three years. Where on earth is such a man going to find at least £50,000 from if he feels a call to full-time work?
It doesn’t need to be like this. And solving the problem needn’t involve churches writing cheques for tens of thousands of pounds. Let me show you how.
We saw last time that it could cost around £50,000 to train for the ministry. It is usually assumed that the man’s sending church ought to make a reasonably significant contribution to that cost. But stop and think for a moment. When I was in college, my home church supported me sacrificially. But like many students, when I left college I didn’t return to my home church. I was called elsewhere. Generally speaking, the home church is substantially worse off after sending someone to college. The man and his family were probably giving a fairly substantial amount in financial gifts each year – but no longer. They will have been having an input into the church’s life and ministry – which if he is preparing for pastoral ministry or mission work, is likely to be substantial. The church will lose that, too. So despite the fact that the church has lost one of its best workers, and perhaps most generous givers, they are still expected to find several thousand pounds to encourage the student on his way!
I am not suggesting that sending churches ought not be involved in funding the training of their members – it’s vital that they do, and vital that they remain involved in the training. But what I am suggesting is that the burden needs to be borne not just by the sending church.
So let’s assume that the sending church will contribute £50 a week for the duration of the training (that’s around £7,800 over three years). And let’s also assume that the man is willing to contribute a similar amount, as are his friends and family. Of course, those from small churches, or those whose wider family are on a low-income or are not Christians will probably find it almost impossible to reach that amount. Nevertheless, let’s assume that those from larger churches or richer families give more to make up for this loss, and that the average student is able to bring £150 a week to his studies (a total £23,400 of three years). Even with that very sacrificial triple contribution, there is still £26,600 to find. Where does that come from? We’ll look at one possible answer in the next post.
Articles in this series:
- Training the next generation
- Funding theological training: the options
- Who is responsible for training our ministers? <-- This article
- A plea for strategic, planned investment in theological training