Tim has just finished two years as a Ministry Trainee at St Mary’s Maidenhead. We asked him to share some tips, from the perspective of a trainee, on how to make the most of your these first years testing out gospel ministry. (Our next blog post will think about the same thing from the perspective of the church leader!)
“I’m basically like a church celebrity. Everyone knows me. I don’t have a clue who anyone is. Those I know, I can’t remember their names. Is this really why I’m here? I don’t know how much I like this.” That was how I felt after week one as a Ministry Trainee at St Mary’s Maidenhead. It was a slightly surreal experience but, looking back over the last two years, I now think “what a great and beneficial time I’ve had.” Here are a few things I’ve learnt that might help you make the most of being a Ministry Trainee.
1. Keep praying
Every Christian knows it is important…but it’s so easy to let it slip. You have a good Father who loves to answer your prayers (Matt 7:9-11), yet it would be an interesting statistic to see how many Bible studies/talks have been prepared without any prayer. Keep praying for the people you’re leading, keep praying for yourself and your service of the Lord. Keep praying. If you’re finding prayer a struggle, have you got too much on? Have you thought about regularly praying with a couple of guys/girls from the church family?
2. Keep reading
Read the Bible. Read Christian books. Again, the temptation is to think you don’t have time but if being a trainee is about serving others and growing in the ability to do so, then learning more of God and the gospel must be a priority.
3. Spend time with church family
One of the huge blessings of being a trainee is that you’re around church family (practically) all the time. Don’t take it for granted. This is a great opportunity to be encouraged in your day-by-day walk and to encourage others (Hebrews 3:13). Make the most of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. Be humble
Yesterday I was doing a great talk in front of the church and now I’ve been told to take the bins out…
“Yesterday I was doing a great talk in front of the church and now I’ve been told to take the bins out…” It’s the classic dilemma of being a trainee. One minute you’re doing something you think is ‘worthy’ of you and your gifts, the next minute you’re doing something you think is ‘beneath’ you. Hold on…being a trainee isn’t about all about you! Follow Christ’s example (Philippians 2:1-11) and remember it is him you’re serving (Colossians 3:23-24) when you’re behind the scenes shifting chairs AND when you’re at the front leading the music.
5. Throw yourself in…
If your church is anything like St Mary’s, there are lots of things you can do as a trainee and many of them you will never have done before. Throw yourself in to anything you can. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t worry if you don’t think you can do the best job. It’s alright to learn that something is not your thing; in fact, that is a good thing. A huge part of being a trainee is learning where your gifts lie and where they don’t.
6. …but, be honest when it’s too much
We all have different capacities. Be honest and tell your minister if you’ve got too much on. Don’t allow yourself to burn out or allow things that should be a service to God and the church become a huge burden.
7. Ask for feedback
we fear negative comments but feedback is key
This is hard, because we fear negative comments but feedback is key, whether it’s feedback on a talk, a bible study, or any sort of teaching. Feedback is one of the best ways for you to learn and improve. Something I’ve found helpful is asking for feedback on your general work as a trainee. Ask questions like, “How could I improve?,” “What are my strengths?,” “Should I keep thinking about full-time set apart ministry?”
I hope some of these lessons learnt will help you in your upcoming year as a ministry trainee. Remember “it is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col 3:24b).