Want to explore Baptist ministry?
A new document outlines the steps to accredited Baptist ministry - and highlights how the Spirit is increasingly calling different people to different types of ministry
What do a teacher, a nurse, a banker and a bouncer have in common? They are all people in recent years who have become Baptist ministers.
Their stories feature in a new Ministries Team brochure to be given to anyone exploring a call to ministry. Entitled ‘An Introduction to Accredited Baptist Ministry’, the brochure outlines the steps to be taken by those wishing to become a minister, from the first inklings of God’s leading through to a first substantive ministry position.
A key feature of the new document lies in its real-life stories. Alongside an explanation of what an accredited Baptist minister is and how to become one are 16 stories from those who have already travelled the road. They include the experiences of, yes, the teacher, the nurse, the banker and the bouncer. And the stories too of both black and white, male and female, old and young, from the south and north.
This mixture of people, called by God and set aside by the church to exercise spiritual oversight are now, variously, a church’s senior minister, an RAF chaplain, a leader of a church for the homeless, a youth pastor, a newly accredited minister pastoring their first congregation, an evangelist to the young, a pioneer among the deaf, a chaplain among those with mental ill-health, a missional listener in a community, a regional minister. Diverse in both background and in the outworking of God’s call on their lives, they are all, nevertheless, accredited Baptist ministers.
This diversity grounds/underlines our contemporary understanding that being an accredited minister does not necessarily mean being a church pastor and teacher. Alongside those who provide spiritual oversight to an established congregation, the Spirit is increasingly calling people to different types of ministry. In our rapidly changing society, fewer and fewer people have a Christian heritage or any experience of a church community. Those called to ministry today are often focussing on people and places that have yet to hear of Jesus, let alone acknowledge him as Saviour and Lord.
Chaplains take the presence of Jesus into workplaces, prisons, education, health providers, the military, and more.
Pioneers and church planters embed themselves in communities to search for and nurture signs of God’s transforming work.
Children’s, youth and families’ ministers accompany the younger generation, sowing in them the seeds of the gospel whenever they can.
What makes these different practitioners accredited Baptist ministers is threefold:
They share a common calling to a way of being, to exhibit what we call the Marks of Ministry.
They all undergo a programme of ministerial formation and theological education, usually through one of the five colleges in partnership with the Baptist Union.
And they each submit their calling to testing by others, beginning with a local church recognising their potential, and ending with a local church, project or organisation calling them to minister to and through them.
An Introduction to Accredited Baptist Ministry provides the detail of what this process of discernment and formation looks like, and who can help along the way. It is downloadable from the Baptists Together website, so the link or the pdf itself can be easily and immediately forwarded to anyone at the beginning of the journey who would like to know more.
If you want to discover these stories and perhaps think whether you, or someone you know, should begin to explore a similar calling, then this brochure is for you. Do take a look.
Stories from our ministers
My all to ministry started at the age of 14, in a country where women were not given the opportunity to become ministers. I heard the Lord speak to me loud and clear, so I told my pastor. He told me that I was called to ministry and prayed for me, but I laughed.
In order to run away from becoming a pastor, I pursued nursing. I served as a nurse for five years when God gave me the opportunity to come to the UK. Once here, I pushed all the doors of becoming a mental health nurse, but God had his own plan for me. In the church I went to, people were asking if I had been a pastor before and others outside the church would approach me to ask if I was a pastor.
After running away for a long time, I finally yielded in surrender to the call of God. It happened like this; our church minister never gave up on my calling, so one day she asked me to just give this ministry thing a go. I said I will just test the waters by placing a call to a Baptist college and if they do not answer that will be it and she agreed. I placed a call to Bristol Baptist College and – guess what! – I was told to come in at 11am the same day.
I asked to start a course for lay pastors to see if God was really serious with this call. It was very obvious, all the staff at college could testify to my calling. So, after a year I switched to a ministerial formation course.
As a black woman, I was told of the possible difficulties in gaining a placement church as a minister-in-training. I decided that nothing will rob my call anymore, so I became a college-based student. I had a wonderful time at college with such loving staff who gave me all the support I needed.
I am now an accredited minister in a mixed church where we are family, regardless of our race or gender. So, my beloved in the Lord, be encouraged. If God has called you, just follow his lead and guidance and know he is there to see you through. Only do not be discouraged over obstacles, because even our call is to be tested just like everything else.
As I began training, I was told that the years ahead were ‘formation’ for ministry. I didn’t know what formation meant but having already been called to minister in a medium-sized Baptist church, I assumed formation meant ticking the Baptist boxes and jumping through holiness hoops.
The financial cost was high, the workload tough, yet the process was richer than I could have imagined. Northern Baptist College offered a pathway which fitted around leading a church and having a young family. I studied theology at St. Hild College (which hosts the Northern Baptist College hub in Sheffield) each Monday and joined with other ministerial students from Manchester and Durham over a number of weekends every year to grow in our Baptist heritage.
After a busy Sunday in church, college on Monday felt like a weekly retreat. The times of worship, prayer and group discussions, mixed in with theology and Scripture, became a lifeline in busy seasons. Cost was the biggest hurdle to training. Having already studied, I wasn’t eligible for student loans, but my sending church paid part, and God provided the rest. If you’re called to accredited ministry, don’t let finances put you off – God will provide.
Following training, I began as a newly accredited minister more confident in communicating the Gospel in the changing culture we live in, more rooted in our Baptist tradition and more equipped to come alongside others in challenging pastoral situations. I still couldn’t define formation, but I finished with a greater picture of who God is, equipped to freely serve and lead in the ministry to which God has uniquely called me.