Called to Ministry?
Within God’s call in Christ to every believer there are a whole variety of opportunities to focus our response. The challenge is to get that response lined up with God’s call. Baptists have always emphasised the ministry of all believers and within webnet we continue to emphasise this fact. However, God continues to call people to exercise specific aspects of ministry, which require more than spare time allows. webnet can help facilitate and test a calling in certain directions for which accreditation. However, in the first instance it is always best to begin talk with those who know you best and your own local leadership.
Baptist Together oversees ‘The Register of Covenanted Persons Accredited for Ministry.’ Any Minister who is part of this covenant is able to be commended to any of our churches. For an initial period, usually three years, people serve as ‘Newly Accredited Ministers’ before becoming fully accredited.
Regionally Recognised Ministry
‘Regionally Recognised Leaders’ (RRL’s) is the title being used to describe those called to a ministry of leadership within the churches of the West of England Baptist Network area, but who are not seeking full national accreditation. It is a ministry local to the Association area; it is recognised and validated by the wider Baptist family in association together; it is an extremely valuable expression of God’s gifting in ministry amongst our Churches. RRM’s are those seeking to serve in a ‘limited sphere’ within the Association’s region. The word ‘limited’ refers to the limitation within the webnet area which may be due to a variety of factors such as age, opportunity to study, or other reasons.
Testing a Call
As you explore this within a Baptist context the following framework generally applies:
- You will need to talk with your own minister and/or local leaders. They will need eventually to ask for a recommendation to webnet from your Church Meeting. The local affirmation of a sense of call on a person’s is crucial and no one can progress through our process without it. The local church is asked to affirm their discernment of your calling into Christian Ministry.
- You will need to be in touch with a Regional Minister, who will guide you through the approach to the Association and Colleges. The Regional Ministerial Recognition Committee will interview you to test your calling to Baptist Ministry.
- A period of formation that touches mind, practice and the whole person will normally follow. This is usually via one of our Baptist Colleges and at the end of this the College will be asked to commend you as ready for ministry. If training has been experienced in another context it is possible to approach the process through the Residential Selection Conference – speak to a Regional Minister who can explain this more fully if appropriate.
- The final test is that a call from a local church is received and responded to positively in the confidence that God has directed you.
At each point an openness to be led either way through your own dealings with God and through his people acting together is of utmost importance.
We tend to focus upon the three ‘C’s’ of character, competency and calling.
CHARACTER is assessed primarily via references and a certificate that indicates that you are not unsuitable for work with children and vulnerable adults. We also require a self declaration in relation to criminal records.
COMPETENCY will be tested, but it is potential for development that we are looking for rather than the finished article. Clearly, there needs to be signs of gifts in a variety of areas, however, even if not yet fully matured.
CALLING God calls all kinds of people and sometimes we ourselves are the last to recognise it’s us! Calling is tested locally, regionally and nationally before anyone is able to become a fully accredited Baptist Minister.
Marks of Calling
The characteristics and behaviours looked for by the association and national ministerial recognition committees in those who apply to train for Baptist ministry.
Our colleges will build on these during ministerial training and formation.
- Clear evidence of a call to Baptist Ministry that originates from God.
This will be supported by personal testimony and attested to by other mature Christians who know the candidate well. We should expect a balance between a person’s clear confidence in their calling and a realism about the implications of such a call. This is likely to involve some degree of personal struggle. We would expect evidence that this sense of call is the result of more than human aspiration and is being obediently explored even in the face of other work and life options.
- A personal maturity and deepening of a candidate’s relationship with Christ.
We would expect candidates to have a growing Christ-likeness. They should show themselves to be people of prayer who seek to ‘dwell richly’ in the Word of God and allow it to shape their lives. They should be able to share the story of those events, experiences, disciplines and relationships that have deepened their own personal faith and walk with God.
- A clear sense that God’s purposes matter more to a candidate than personal goals and aspirations.
To some degree this is apparent in the fact that candidates see themselves as following a call rather than pursuing a career. However, this should be confirmed by their Christian journey: they may be leaders, but they should also demonstrate themselves as those who put the interests of others before their own. This may mean that they are willing to pursue a part-time or bi-vocational path. They should be able to articulate how a sense of God’s purposes and sovereignty, the needs of God’s people, and the disciplines of being part of a Christian community have shaped their discipleship and service. They should provide examples of servanthood and humility in their stories. They should explain how their faith is worked out within their family life and friendships and whether they model a good work/life balance.
- A proven ability and adequate humility to listen and learn.
A pre-requisite for formation is the ability to apply experience and learning to new situations. Servant leaders are those who can demonstrate that they still have much to learn. They should respect and evaluate the views of others and show grace in the face of opposition and difference. We should expect evidence in both church and work life that they have been open to and influenced by the thinking and insights of others. They should recognise their own limitations and be willing to expand their boundaries.
- Tenacity and character in the face of disappointment and struggle.
Suitability for ministry is not only tested in a context of success, but also of struggle. We expect some evidence of remaining personally committed in the face of disappointment or the routine and mundane. We expect candidates to be able to encourage and re-motivate others. This needs to be tinged with realism. Candidates should demonstrate empathy and engagement with the struggles of others and not try to impose enthusiasm in the face of genuine difficulty and distress.
- A sense of belonging to the Body of Christ in all its diversity.
We should expect ministers and leaders to come from a wide range of ethnic, gender, socio-economic and other backgrounds. Though shaped by their own life experience and worldview, they should show they value and include people who are different from themselves. They should not display prejudice and inappropriate value judgements in their perceptions and interactions with people. We should expect them to welcome difference and diversity as an opportunity to grow and learn from others. They should demonstrate a commitment to work collaboratively in covenant relationship with others within Baptists Together.
- Clear evidence that a candidate is someone whom others naturally trust and follow.
This will usually be evidenced by the candidate holding a reasonably senior and responsible role within the sending church. If this is absent, there should be clear and understandable reasons why. The candidate’s reasons should be confirmed by others who can attest to the reality of the situation. There may be evidence of this quality being seen in other aspects of a person’s life, and indeed we should expect some degree of consistency between working, social and community contexts. Whilst demonstrating that they win the trust of others, the candidate must exhibit the character that makes them worthy of it, and show that they do not abuse it when granted.
- An individual with measurable leadership potential.
While opportunities for leadership may have been limited, we should reasonably expect some existing contexts where candidates have demonstrated leadership potential. This will largely be evidenced by their interactions with other people. This will include: Self-awareness of the impact of their actions and attitudes on others and of their own shortcomings and negative traits; the ability to enthuse, inspire and excite others; having a vision for change and some sense of how this could be achieved; the ability to influence, co-ordinate, pull together and bring out the best in others; a sense of God’s vision and purpose as distinct from human aspiration and ideals.
- A growing ability to communicate.
We would expect candidates to communicate what it means to follow Christ through their lives. But they should also be able to articulate their faith, the gospel and their understanding of scripture through some combination of preaching, speaking, conversation, writing, music, art, creative media and so on. The means of communication will depend on their setting and gifting.
- Fruits of ministry in the here and now.
While recognising that we are assessing people at a preliminary stage, it seems reasonable to expect that there will be some evidence of effective ministry already present. We look for the fruits of a person’s existing contributions in the life of God’s people. Using the model of Ephesians 5, we might expect at least one expression of this ministry to be:
- Others becoming followers of Christ through their influence.
- Others learning and growing in Christ through their influence.
- Others supported and strengthened in situations of struggle and vulnerability through their intervention.
- A ministry that extends beyond their own local church.
- The development of a new prophetic reality inspired by gospel convictions.
- Pioneering new gospel and kingdom contexts.
The competencies we wish ministers to obtain according to the needs of their ministry setting.
While we measure fitness to minister primarily by the Marks of Ministry, we recognise the need for ministers to gain a range of competencies relevant to their ministry. There are some competencies that should be common to all ministers. But there is also flexibility such that each individual is expected to obtain the range of competencies that best fits the type of ministry to which they are called. During ministerial formation in the college and NAMs years, the required competencies for each person are determined by the college staff as appropriate. The final assessment of whether a minister-in-training should be accredited will be determined against both the Marks of Ministry and the appropriate competencies.
The range of competencies are as follows:
- The ability to study, understand and communicate the beliefs, practices, story and Scriptures of the Christian faith and to live a life of Christian discipleship and witness.
- The ability to understand Baptist history, principles and practices, and to encourage the church to live in accordance with these.
- The ability to communicate clearly in public and private settings.
- The ability to offer servant leadership of the congregation/mission initiative in such a way that the ministry of the whole church/organisation is developed, especially in the areas of conflict resolution and the management of change and emphasising the need for good team working skills.
- The ability to offer high levels of informed and compassionate pastoral care and support to individuals, within and beyond the congregation/organisation.
- The ability to lead a church or organisation in its mission, both participating in that mission personally, and enabling others to do so, with the particular ability to lead people to Christ.
- The ability to develop and maintain a spirituality that will sustain a life-long ministry.
- The ability to manage self, workload and the strengthening of significant other relationships, in order to maintain a balance of ministry and life.
- The ability to lead others in public worship.
- The ability effectively to use basic IT resources and media.
- The ability to welcome, affirm and include others in the life of the church.
- The ability to manage safeguarding policies for both children and adults-at-risk. This includes the requirement to have undertaken BUGB safeguarding level 2 and 3 training with an approved BU trainer.
- The ability to exercise ministry and engage in mission in a secular, multi-faith and multi- cultural environment and to understand ministry in an ecumenical environment.
- The ability to work within the governance requirements of charities and the regulations which apply to them.
We hope you’ll find relevant and useful information here, but recognise this is only a start. Further help and advice will be available from your own Minister, or one of the webnet Regional Ministers.