Matt Waldock, formerly a ministry trainee and now a church planter and pastor, shares how City Church Manchester has crafted a particular form of ministry traineeship for these economic times.
A lot has changed since I was a ministry trainee in 2004. When I graduated from Lancaster University, the concept of ministry trainees was an unknown quantity, and I set my focus on a career in the civil service until a friend encouraged me to apply to work for twelve months for a new church plant in Liverpool. Despite my initial reluctance it was a decision that transformed the trajectory of my life.
City Church Manchester was planted on 7th September 2014 with the intention of seeing churches regularly planted, reinvigorated and resourced throughout Manchester, the North West and beyond. Our ministry training programme has always been a vital part of our plan to develop men and women who will be trained and equipped to join these core teams as church members or ministry staff. Being part of a 9:38-inspired traineeship programme began my path into full-time gospel ministry which has culminated in the establishment of City Church, and so our internships seek to prepare graduates to similarly take up the baton in similar positions across the region.
When I first arrived in Liverpool, my intention was to grow in theological depth and Christian maturity, and perhaps indulge a curiosity into how an actual church operates behind the scenes; I had no concern (pre-credit crunch) about seamlessly re-joining my intended career path a year later. However, I’ve increasingly observed that, these days, students are worried that becoming a ministry trainee will hinder their future employability. This has been exacerbated by students leaving university with significant debt and the spectre of falling behind in the graduate opportunities rat-race. As a response to this concern, we have made some significant adaptations to our programme.
‘What’s in a name?’ – Everything!
First, we changed the title of the role from ‘trainee’ to ‘intern’ and the reason was simple: intern is the vocabulary used more commonly in graduate programmes. The short-hand of ‘intern’ was more familiar to students who were weighing up a variety options and who were considering the very concept of working for a church for the first time. ‘Intern’ is also more comprehensible, and indeed friendly, to recruiters scrutinizing the post university choices that a candidate has made. More fundamentally, we were hoping to introduce a key mind-set shift for students: to compare a ministry internship with City Church Manchester alongside a graduate programme with a FTSE 500 company. Strikingly, our intention was that graduates from our programme would leave more competitive in the workplace than when they entered.
Input versus output
There is no question that the internships are crucial to City Church (the ministry output of the interns is very valuable), but the significant benefit I received from my own year as a trainee was the sheer amount of time that was patiently poured into me by the pastor to both disciple me and improve my skills. With that in mind, we offer something few other secular graduate positions can offer: approximately 50 hours of one-to-one coaching over the course of the programme.
Preparation for employment: skilling up and orientating for God-glorifying work
This one-to-one coaching is supported by what we call a Professional Launchpad, where all our interns are offered support in articulating and compiling the skills and experiences gained over the programme into a competitive CV. Six transferable skill areas (including communication, leadership, emotional intelligence and problem solving) are assessed on an ongoing basis throughout the year and interns log examples of these skills each week, building a portfolio of evidenced achievements. Furthermore, interns identify an industry that they wish to enter and are linked (where possible) with a member of the church with a relevant industry background to be their mentor.
We have also recognised that interns who stay with us for two years, rather than one, are of greater value to the life of the church in terms of gospel confidence and ministry capability. To encourage the substantial step of committing to an extra year, we offer a Professional Residency where we seek to develop their professional skills with reference to the industry that they wish to go into and utilise that excellence in the service of the church. Recent examples have included graphic design, video creation, project management, financial administration and modelling and IT development.
Come to Manchester and see the world!
Over the last four years we have enjoyed building relationships with a number of churches across the world from Dubai to Alabama. These partnerships have enriched the church and have been both an encouragement and support to us. One of the ways we’ve been able to deepen these relationships is by offering a four-week international placement to serve within one of these churches. The opportunity to serve abroad is not only appealing to prospective interns but also contributes to City Church through the intern’s gained experience and relational strengthening of our partnerships with churches overseas. This year we’re excited to be able to send interns to Nashville (Tennessee), Birmingham (Alabama), and Tupelo (Mississippi).
Come for a year and stay for life!
I never imagined Liverpool would be anything more than a brief sojourn on my way to London; in actual fact, I stayed for more than 11 years and have never left the North West since I arrived for university in 2001. A significant part of the reason for that is that I caught the vision for more churches to be planted and revitalised in one of the most gospel-barren areas of the country. At City Church Manchester, our church-planting strategy depends upon men and women catching that vision too, and committing their lives to serve as members or staff in these fledgling gospel outposts. This year we are launching our Planter Residency, which is an advanced internship specialising in church plant leadership that is for anyone who has already had a year of gospel ministry experience and has been recognised with the gift and character potential to be a key leader on a launch team. For me this is personal; fourteen years on from my own ministry internship, I still believe it’s the best way for each successive generation to catch the vision too.
For more information about the City Church Manchester Internship, Professional Residency and Planting Residency, click here.