The Importance of Training Leaders

The Importance of Training Leaders

by Andy Constable

When I wanted to start working in ‘poorer’ areas I genuinely thought that it would be a case of going in, sharing the gospel, praying and everything would change. Although these are the fundamentals of any gospel work I was naive about the culture, the work of the local church and the pressures involved working in a scheme. The heart was good but I needed training. One of the great things about working at Niddrie is that we are a learning church. Mez runs internships for those who want to gain experience in a gospel centred church in a housing scheme. This has been invaluable for me. The internship has helped me see my abilities for preaching, given me space to work through many of my heart issues, given me the opportunity to think through the culture of schemes and how we are going to reach them for Christ. There are a growing number of restless Christians who want to plant in housing schemes but have no experience. There needs to be an increase in the number of churches across the board who are running in house training to reach housing estates specifically. The question for current pastors is: are you a training church? With evangelical witness in housing schemes being next to none there is a great need for the few to be training leaders on the ground level. There are four reasons why.

Firstly, this is the model of Paul. We see in Acts 20 that Paul went to Ephesus and “for three years he did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.” He spent time training the Ephesian elders and living with them. He shared his knowledge and his life! Paul was a training leader.

Secondly, although Bible College gives you a chance to study the Bible it doesn’t equip you to do deal with people. If you are working in a church plant or church revitalization and you are trying to reach a scheme then you need to be able to relate to people. It’s no good just being able to preach on Sunday but have no interaction with the people who live in the area. If we are going to reach out to schemes then we need leaders who can relationally build contacts, learn the culture and share the gospel in a way that the culture can understand. This cannot be learned from the classroom but only as you interact with people on a day to day basis. Therefore, it’s important for churches to offer internships so that leaders can learn about the Bible as well as how to connect with people.

Thirdly, internships on the ground level give leaders a taste of the pressure involved in running a church on a housing scheme. Many pastors go into these areas and burn out after a couple of years. They weren’t ready for the stress that comes with working in these areas. People are always selling the vision and the ‘sexy’ bits of the work. And although the work is exciting and ground breaking, the stress in these areas is immense. We are working with people with mental health issues, long term drug abuse  histories, the sexually abused and people with chaotic lives. On top of that you are preparing sermons, dealing with pastoral issues and running a team. This is people focused ministry and people are tiring. Many ministers with no experience, but with good intentions, go into schemes to plant and collapse under the work load. They burn out because they didn’t get any support. They didn’t know where to focus their attentions. An internship on an estate gives you that necessary experience.

Fourthly, its important to be a training churches so that we have structures to train future leaders from housing estates. There are too many churches that wheel out their converts for evangelistic events but do not see their potential for leadership. A lot of our guys from these schemes have massive criminal records and are unlikely to get a job in the secular world. Churches in schemes need to have internships for their new converts to train them in the Bible in order for them to minister in their areas. Again, well meaning essentially ‘middle class’ Christians (like myself) working in these areas are not the future for these estates. These estates will be reached long term by indigenous leaders who have been trained thoroughly by the church. Too many churches assume that their converts are not educated enough to learn deep things about the Bible. But you will be surprised by the raw talent of some of these guys to take on truths about predestination, the double imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the hypostatic union and then explain these truths in a way that others can understand.

Training leaders is tough and time consuming but so vital in order to reach estates. If you are a minister with experience then use what you know to train others. Younger leaders need to feel the pressure and get used to working with people. Future leaders from schemes must be resourced and trained. If we are going to reach estates long term then training on the ground level is key!