ministry training

Five Reasons I’m not doing MTS

I’ve had a number of conversations with Ministry Training Scheme apologists telling me that MTS is an essential. They do it lovingly and genuinely. And MTS is a terrific program for people thinking about vocational ministry. But I don’t think it’s for me. I think it’s probably for others. I don’t think of this as a double standard. I’m not sure when MTS became an essential. I’ve no doubt it’s helpful. I just doubt that it’s necessary.

MTS apologists have also, on occasion suggested the effectiveness of one’s ministry is tied to whether or not one undertook MTS. This is rubbish.

I don’t think setting up anything as a compulsory step in the path to ministry is right.

These apologists think my reasoning is weak. And it’s hard to argue with their reasoning without sounding arrogant (which I am, and which MTS would help) – but our minds are pretty made up. We’re already well underway with the college process. I’m not sure what these guys hoped to gain outside of unsettling us.

I would have gladly done MTS if I was still single and was asked 3 years ago. But I’m not, and I wasn’t. Well, not in any convincing way.

Here is my reasoning.

  1. Finances
    Training for ministry is a significant financial sacrifice – four years living below the poverty line while potentially trying to start a family doesn’t sound like much fun – six years sounds crazy. I’m not completely driven by finances but I am a pragmatist.
  2. Time
    I want to go to college because I want to be in full time ministry (and I want to be appropriately equipped for a lifetime of doing that). College is four years of not doing the job that I want to be doing – and not taking responsibility for a ministry. 

    I am headstrong, stubborn and confident (also known as arrogant) – I don’t want to spend two years as an apprentice before spending another four years essentially being an apprentice while at college. We feel a little bit like we’ve left the college decision a year late anyway – Robyn wants to study with me, and we want to fit a family in somewhere (God willing), and adding another two years to the schedule doesn’t work.

  3. Experience
    This reason is twofold – one, our plan, prior to college – is to end up in parish ministry and I think the most important experience for parish ministry is in the workplace – not a couple of years of extra years of ministry training. 

    Two – MTS is great for giving people an experience of the lifestyle that comes with full time ministry – and the costs involved, as well as hands on responsibility for programs. I think I’ve done a fair bit of the latter – and I grew up in the former. I don’t know how much MTS could possibly teach me about life in ministry that I haven’t experienced directly or vicariously.

  4. Pragmatics
    There are practicalities and external factors driving our decision to head to college (QTC) next year. The college is in its infancy (following significant strategic and cultural change), it needs students to keep this momentum, and I’d like to be part of that.
    If we’re thinking about Townsville as a long term option (and it’s on the list) then I’d like to be in a position to be back here sooner rather than later.
  5. I have plenty of “mentors”
    MTS National Director, Ben Pharlet, was in Townsville over the weekend – his MTS apologetic was that it’s a great chance to be spiritually “fathered” ala Paul and Timothy. He may have a point on this as a “mentoring” type role – and it has made me reconsider my ill conceived mentoring rant last week. I was probably wrong there.

    But I don’t feel like this is a massive gap in my ministry armour – I’ve benefited greatly from close relationships with people in Ministry in various roles with AFES and church. I know what Christ centred gospel focused ministry looks like. I know what it costs. I know people can be draining and hard.

    From what I’ve observed in the ministry of people I know it’s brotherhood that sustains ministry in the long term. And my peers are going through college (or finishing MTS) now – or will be in the near future. I have no doubt I could find new peers later on – but why put in the relational hard yards when I’ve got a ready made group of friends already in the throes of ministry training.   

While I love and appreciate many people who have MTS’d in the past – and think it did them (and would do me) the world of good – I just don’t think

that two years of training prior to training will have a massive effect in the long term. Having spoken to many MTS graduates I’m sure it’s a good thing – I just don’t think it’s a necessary thing. Your thoughts (especially you Izaac)?

Spurious claim

Robyn and I went to a session of Spur on Saturday morning – Brisbane’s equivalent to whatever Sydney’s MTS conference is now called.

It was mind boggling. After a 4 year exile from Brisbane I knew almost nobody there. There’s been a complete generation change. It seems most of the guys of my generation are either doing ministry already, in theological education or doing some sort of MTS (and perhaps some have ruled it out).

That’s greatly encouraging – and is another prod that suggests college is the right thing for us next year. Enough thinking and talking – now it’s time for acting.

It must be said that the conference was “targeting” uni students so we didn’t quite fit the demograhpic.

The speaker was Townsville AFES staffworker Dave Walker – who used the pulpit to exhort and encourage the people there towards “reliability” – not flippancy or a reluctance to shoulder responsibility. He included a little dig about me in that – which was funny because we were in the back row, had arrived late, nobody knew we were there, and very few people knew who I was. It was like he assumed my notoriety still existed. Haha.

One memorable moment from his sermon though – that is worth recording for posterity – was his “first law of theodynamics” – which must surely rival “Walkers Ultimate 500” (still on the Wikipedia entry for 500) as one of the wisest things he’s ever come up with.

Roughly paraphrased it states:

“(Christian) Glory always follows suffering”…

Nice.

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