Churches Raising Up Pastors – Ministry Training Strategy


9Marks wants to see more churches and pastors taking responsibility for raising up the next generation of pastors. To help our readers catch a vision for what that might look like, we asked several organizations closely tied to one or several local churches how they fulfill this mission. With one exception, each of the following organization answers the same 18 questions.

Unlike the other programs listed here, this presentation of Australia’s Ministry Training Strategy, authored by Colin Marshall, does not follow the 18 question format.

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Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) grew out of the ministry of Phillip Jensen in his role as Anglican Chaplain to the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. In 1979 he began employing University graduates for two years to work and train with him in the student and local church ministry. His aim was to prepare these apprentices for formal theological education.

Ever since, the vision of MTS has been to train ministers of the gospel to declare the saving work of Christ to the world and so build his church. It is not a quick-fix program, or a silver bullet for the struggles and pressures of ministry. It’s a long term multiplying strategy—challenging Christians to make gospel work their life’s passion.

MTS specifically involves local churches in a number of ways. It equips pastors through a series of workshops, conferences, and ongoing coaching by MTS staff. It provides training resources for churches through its website. The MTS Challenge Conferences, held for pastors and their potential apprentices,  challenges men from the Word of God to make gospel preaching their life’s work and to consider their suitability for this calling. MTS also conducts regional training intensives for apprentices that focus on the godly life of the pastor as well as their theological, exegetical, and preaching skills.


At the heart of MTS is the invitation to potential gospel workers to participate in a two-year apprenticeship before entering theological education. Apprentices are paid a training scholarship to enable them to experience what it is like to be in full-time ministry. They minister alongside older, wiser gospel workers to learn what it means to preach the truth and live for Christ.

Since 1979, over 1200 apprentices have been trained in churches and campus ministries throughout Australia. Of these, 197 are currently engaged in theological study in various colleges, and another 366 men and women have completed their formal studies and are now serving as full-time ministry workers worldwide.


One of the big questions we are often asked is “Why bother with the apprenticeship?” Given that we send our apprentices on to formal theological study, why is the apprenticeship needed? It’s a big sacrifice for ministry candidates to spend an extra two years training and it’s a big task for pastors and churches to provide mentoring and remuneration for apprentices who are often raw and untested. What benefits have we seen for those who do a ministry apprenticeship? Here are a few reflections.

  1. Apprentices learn to integrate Word, life and ministry practice.
    This is difficult in the classroom where much of the time is spent imparting information. Especially for apprentices who have not grown up in the church, it is not immediately obvious how to shape the whole of life by the Word. By studying the Scriptures together and wrestling with their application to pastoral issues, theological fashions and ministry plans, the apprentice learns to think theologically about everything.
  2. Apprentices are tested in character.A pastor working closely with an apprentice can see what might be well hidden in the classroom context. The gap between image and reality is exposed in the pressures and hassles of ministry life. The real person is known—the true motivations, the capacity for love and forgiveness, the scars and pain from the past. And a wise trainer can build the godly character of the young minister through the Word, prayer, accountability and modeling.
  3. Apprentices learn that ministry is about people, not programs.
    We know that ministry is about transforming people and building godly communities through the gospel. The apprenticeship is two years of working with people: meeting with unbelievers, discipling young Christians, training youth leaders, leading a small group, or praying with those who are struggling.  Our goal is that apprentices spend 20 hours of their week in face-to-face ministry with people, prayerfully teaching the truth in love. They learn that ministry is about prayerfully proclaiming Christ to people, not administrating endless programs.
  4. Apprentices are well prepared for formal theological study.
    During the two years of ministry involvement, lots of biblical and theological issues are raised and apprentices are eager for rigorous study. Theological study is placed in the proper context of evangelism and church building. The motivation for further study becomes life and ministry preparation rather than passing exams.
  5. Apprentices learn ministry in the real world.
    One of the problems with the classroom is that the student does not need to own the ideas in the same way as he would in the pulpit. The learning is abstracted from everyday life and ministry to others. We learn ten views of the atonement to pass exams and not because anything hangs on it. Teaching the truth to others helps the apprentice to understand the importance of their theological training.Another problem with the academic training model is that it suits certain personalities. But our best evangelists and church planters might be those who struggle to learn in the passive context of the classroom. These people thrive in a context where they were talking and preaching and building ministries and being tutored along the way. In academia they would be deemed failures.
  6. Apprentices learn to train others so that ministry is multiplied.
    Because apprentices have had the experience of being personally mentored in life and ministry, they imbibe what we call “the training mindset.” When they are leading a ministry in the future, they instinctively equip co-workers and build ministry teams. Those who only learn ministry in the classroom often do not catch the vision of entrusting the ministry to others. Those who are trained as apprentices, immediately look for their own apprentices when they are leading a church.
  7. Apprentices learn evangelism and entrepreneurial ministry.
    Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to think strategically and creatively about ministry. In our post-Christian, pluralistic, multi-cultural missionary context, many pastors no longer have a flock sitting in the pews waiting for the Sunday sermon. Apprentices can experiment with new ways of reaching people and take the initiative to start new groups and programs.


The apprenticeship is not a formal program or curriculum. The paradigm is not an educational method but rather a parent raising a child. Paul, with great warmth and affection, repeatedly describes Timothy as his son. “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22).

Paul was a model for Timothy not only in his teaching, but also in the whole of life, especially in suffering. “You, however, have closely followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Tim. 3:10-11).

Apprentices need to see into the heart of their pastor-trainers—the sins and confession, the fears and faith, the visions and realities, the successes and failures. Trainers need the humility to honestly share their lives. This happens as they serve together in the work of the gospel, but also in the home, where they are no longer the public preacher and ministry leader, and the professional persona has dropped away.

MTS is all about passing on the gospel baton to the next generation of runners. In God’s kindness he has raised up many runners who will pass the baton on to many more. We give him thanks and praise.

Colin Marshall is the national director of Ministry Training Strategy. For more on the Ministry Training Strategy, read Colin Marshall’s book, Passing the Baton, or go to



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Colin Marshall

Colin Marshall is the CEO of Vinegrowers and conducts their training and coaching ministries. Together with his wife, Jacquie, he has spent the past 30 years training men and women in the ministry of the gospel, both in university and local church contexts.

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