“There are more people in Europe who have never heard the gospel than there are in Africa. Europe is the world’s forgotten mission-field. But of all Europe, surely nowhere has been neglected to the same extent as Ireland.” (Crawford Gribben, The Irish Puritans – James Usher and the Reformation of the Church)
When I was considering serving as a ministry trainee I went as far west as I thought was possible and ended up in Cornwall. I’m glad I did because the surfing and clotted cream were much better than London! Not only that, but I got a unique experience that has proved incredibly helpful for future ministry.
Big churches and staff teams have their advantages, but with a smaller staff team, you get more time with the pastor/trainer to see hands on what ministry looks like, to have a go and to get good personal feedback and training. You not only absorb ministry by walking alongside your minister but you get to have a go at just about everything, from children’s work to old people’s groups, leading services, preaching, home and hospital visits, teens work, evangelism and pastoral care.
A lack of resources can make it harder for small churches to recruit ministry trainees, but there’s so much that smaller churches can offer and so much that I learnt that I now seek to put into practice. I still remember my trainer telling me that I needed to join a local club of some sort to mix with people from beyond the church, and that’s something I’ve always done in every parish I’ve been in since. It’s been a great way to ensure that I am still personally involved in reaching out, and it’s something I’ve since sought to pass on to others.
One of the other thing that I’ve taken from my time as a ministry trainee is the need to train up others, and so since becoming a rector I’ve sought to invest in ministry trainees. It’s been a great blessing and encouragement to be involved in training up others for gospel work. I’ve now gone even further west than Cornwall and I’m currently serving in the Drung Group of Churches in the republic of Ireland. Living near the border, we’re only 2 hours away from Belfast so our Ministry Trainees get to go to Cornhill Belfast for 2 days a week and then serve and train in a variety of ways the remainder of the time. Our current Ministry Trainee (Daithí) has recently reflected on his time here. He writes:
“Over these two years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve Christ and share His good news in about as wide a range of ways that you could imagine with people of all ages. I’ve helped run a Christian Union in a local school, taught religion classes in another school, led assemblies in our local National School, helped lead our teens fellowship group, led Bible studies, kept up with parishioners, led sung worship, led services and preached on Sundays. It’s been an encouragement to see the Lord at work in these different areas — even during a pandemic! My time here has been a big challenge too and I’ve certainly been kept on my toes. But I’ve learnt a great deal about what parish ministry is really like…”
We’re sad to see Daithí go, but thrilled that he is heading to Oak Hill College with a view to training to come back to serve the Lord here in the least evangelised English speaking country. A recent survey showed that the Republic of Ireland has the same evangelical population as Japan. If you would like to discuss opportunities to serve as a ministry trainee in Ireland you can get in contact with Nick here.