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Meet the ministry talent spotter

We need to play the long game in growing the next generation of church leaders, says Mark Ryan

One of Elim’s main priorities is developing leaders. Mark Ryan, the Senior Pastor at Birmingham City Church, has been doing this over the years by encouraging many people to go to Regents Theological College for their ministry training. As a bit of a talent spotter we caught up with him to find out why he invests in so many people in this way.

Mark, you’ve now encouraged a good number of people from various churches to head to Regents for ministry training. Why do you make this such a priority?

We have been commanded to pray for workers to labour in the harvest fields. Workers for the harvest are clearly on God’s agenda. We are called not just to survive but to be fruitful. For me, I see it as important that we recruit good, godly and talented people to lead the Church now and in the future. The plain fact is that we need more of the brightest and best young people in the ministry to grow and lead the Church.

We rightly rejoice when people choose other professions, but my question is, ‘why not choose a career in church ministry?’

An important issue for church leadership is to turn the potential of a person into real capital so that they can really produce for the kingdom of God. Proper training is one way in which this potential is realised. Whether someone is investigating an emerging call, or expressing a clear call, Regents and ministry training is a tangible way to ground this call- ing in practical hard work to see if it is indeed real and right for the individual.

What motivates you to look out for potential in those you meet on a regular basis? How do you go about spotting people with ministry potential?

My motivation is that I know many people want to do something great with their lives and there is nothing greater than serving in the ministry if that is the will of the Lord.

We need to get away from the idea that Bible college is a last resort rather than an honourable first choice. People can be spotted but more often they emerge through being consistent at serving in the church. I also keep questions of calling and purpose on the agenda of our church and in this atmosphere many people are willing to have the conversation of what is an appropriate next step for them. Clearly Regents isn’t right for all to fulfil their calling, but unless clear conversations about calling are had, then you won’t discover Regents for the ones for whom it is the right step.

Without sounding too blunt, what’s in it for you? How do you see the benefit in your church?

The privilege of seeing someone grow, develop and finally graduate into the ministry is one of the best things about ministry for me. Church ministry involves different seasons and can, at times, be a bit of a slog, but seeing others step into their calling is part of the joy of seeing long-lasting fruit.

For our church, sending is always healthy.

We try to talk in terms of how everyone is commissioned to go, whether that is to their daily work or their networks and neighbourhoods.

Sending someone to Regents is a part of our sending culture. It teaches the church not to hold everything to itself, but to be generous in all ways, especially with our best talent.

Once someone has signed up to study at Regents, how do you look to support them through their time in training and starting out in ministry?

We keep the conversation going and ask them for regular updates. There are people in our church who pray for our students regularly. We always look to take our student back for at least one of their placements even if they don’t eventually come back to us to serve as church workers. In this way it helps us not to just disconnect once they are in training. I also keep in touch personally with everyone who is in any training programme – we want to be responsible and concerned for their life and progress.

In your opinion, how has context-based learning made a difference to people being able to sign up to Bible college?

For some it is absolutely the right thing to live on campus and ‘soak in’ the environment and community of the college.

For others, this is impossible. What the context-based learning has done is to give an avenue for their calling to be worked out whilst they manage other life circumstances. Context-based learning is also an intensive programme that suits certain styles of learning.

One of the advantages of context-based learning is the ‘working out’ of the classroom whilst in the real-time situation of an ongoing church or other ministry experience. It’s a really fantastic option.

What would you say to other senior leaders who are encouraging the next generation of leaders?

I think in our efforts to work alongside people and create exciting programmes we can sometimes be in danger of short-changing the training process. On-the-job experience is vital but so is deeper training. Let’s not fall into the trap of instant followers becoming short-term leaders because we did not invest in them for the long-term. If we are going to grow the next generation of leaders we need to play the long game.

Through the ups and downs of bringing on the next generation in ministry, what has been your most memorable moment?

I think it’s an ongoing experience not just a moment. I love seeing those who enter the ministry develop and I love our ongoing conversations and joint learning as we seek to minister in our differing contexts. I love it when they call me and ask ‘what do you think?’ I love it when I call them and ask ‘so how do I do this?’

It’s brilliant to see how Mark is intentional about bringing on the next generation and important to recognise we can all encourage those emerging in ministry. A bit of intentionality can go a long way!

For information on what Regents has to offer those in your church go to regents-tc.ac.uk or contact 01684 588979

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