‘No ones ever given me Mission training before’; Should mission training be for everyone in church?

No ones ever trained me for Mission before, I have just asked to bring friends to event, or its been assumed i know what to do

This was a comment I heard when I was delivering a session of detached youthwork training to a group of volunteers in a church setting a few years ago, and it has stuck with me. This was a person who had been involved in church all his life, he was and still is in his late 60’s, a church elder. And yet in his lengthy church-life experience, no one had ever sat him down and gave him instructions on how to do mission. At the time we were thinking through developing conversations with young people on the streets. But it neednt have been.

It is worth a reflection – dont you think?

Should there be deliberate training for ‘ordinary’ church goers in ‘How to do mission?’ 

I note with positivity that a local theological college is doing a ‘theology for everyone’ seminars in the north east. Maybe Mission needs to be for everyone too.

Its not always a given that people know what mission is, from the pews/comfy conference seats, either, unless there is a special mission week, or event. It can be that mission can be about attracting people to events, or being there to serve them in food banks or toddler groups, and these things do provide a structure and purpose for missional activity, and theres nothing wrong with these. But i am saddened that the activity is seen to be important and getting people to it. And the leaders then just spend all their time in the kitchen avoiding people. sounds awful doesnt it – well it happens..  Its times like this, and others when i think how easy it is that mission has been equated to being present in an activity, and the hard work has been done. No the real work starts when people are talked to and in conversation.

But some of the rest of it is implied, isnt it.?

Many a good sermon has an element of application, though this is usually moral and personal, rather than practical, and series’ on How to do Mission – might be rarer in a sermon planner than a week without a church of England controversy. Being Called to Mission, and being a witness – might require more than imperative and deep down vocation- actually thinking about how mission is done, and how mission needs to be translated in todays communities that are working class, digitalised and distant from the church, (though not not spiritual) is one to really get our heads and actions around.

Its not appropriate that one person might feel this calling, and then receive vocational training to be ‘in ministry’ leaving many others behind. Mission, like theology, needs to be for everyone, and part of the life of the church. Its not as easy as ‘how do we do mission’ we just do mission! ( Wittertainment reference)

It might be that you completely disagree. That training people to do mission in a local setting takes away all the spontaneity, mission would become forced an unnatural. And that would be a downside. Yet as i do detached youthwork training, there are many skills and practices to harness, but not actually use – the skill is in improvising, not repetition, being prepared to use and be informal in the moment, with some readiness of what might happen. Agreed, no one wants artificiality. But what is more likely is under-preparedness and fear. One of the good things about a gap year, is that there’s some training alongside it, that is usually practical, but not everyone does a gap year, and young people themselves shouldnt necessarily wait till they are 18 until they have participatory skills in the kingdom. And most people on a gap year, do a whole load of stuff, and then reflect afterwards..

It was an interesting comment, that does need further consideration. Much of the church discipleship internally is the enlargement of fat christians, fed on faith formation and head knowledge – the bible study for example. Less is on the practical getting on with and doing mission – and thinking through and being prepared for it. And it is hard work, undoubtedly. But that doesnt make it wrong. Its just hard. Bible studies and prayer meeting are ‘easy’ and also the lifeblood at times, but mission is what the church is called to be.

So – might training for mission, the actions and behaviours of it, – might churches invest in training people for it – before it is assumed that they know what this is, or what is expected of them. Maybe it was ok to have 60 year olds in churches who werent trained in mission. But I am not sure whether that ‘luxury’ is available to churches now. If the church doesnt grab hold solely its missional purpose in every community, for every context and culture within the UK, then there really are going to be issues. Doing what we’ve always done is yielding the same results – we can re arrange the deckchairs on the titanic – but what if we put those deckchairs to better use? making mission part of the culture of the church. The dangerous risky stuff.

Maybe training for mission should be for everyone?  We need to invest in the people the church has even more. Should the lay/clergy mission training divide be removed?

Most of the time its about maintenance, but if we could shift the conversation to be more about mission, and give everyone a clue about what to do, we might be onto something.


(NB, I mention detached youthwork training, if this interests you, or even, if training for mission is something you’re interested in, see the menus above and contact me, thank you)


Author: James

Currently I work part time for both Frontier Youth Trust (www.fyt.org.uk) and Communities Together Durham (www.communitiestogetherdurham.org) and am also self employed and do various aspects of youthwork consultancy, including training, writing, lecturing, seminars and written pieces, including organisational consultancy, community profiling and detached/youthwork training. Please do get in touch if I can be of help to you in your church, project or organisation to develop your youth and community work. I have contributed to 'Here be Dragons (2013), and two recent articles in the youth and theology journal and 'ANVIL' the CMS online journal. My recent employment includes, working for FYT as a youthwork development adviser, being the centre director at Durham YFC, and before this I was known as 'Mr Sidewalk' as I was the project coordinator for the Sidewalk Project in Perth, where I facilitated the delivery of 5 years of detached youthwork on the streets, schools and communities to engage with young people , and support through alcohol misuse issues. In 2017 I completed an MA in Theology & Ministry at St John's College, Durham, and in 2008 graduated from ICC (now NTC Glasgow) with an honours degree in youth work with Applied theology.

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