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The College of Baptist Ministers is a Company Limited by Guarantee number 8419543 registered in England and Wales at 1 Mimosa Close Chelmsford Essex CM1 6NW.
• codes of ministerial ethics and good practice
• patterns of benchmarked continuous ministerial development
• mutual support through mentoring, senior friends and spiritual direction
• journals from our partners such as Ministry Today
• advice on sabbatical studies, workplace consultancy and appraisal
• a forum to share research and experience and discuss issues in ministry
• a voice for ministers in this changing world
• personal support in times of need
• professional indemnity insurance
OUR VISION STATEMENT
An ambitious organisation
Most Baptist ministers will want to grow and develop in their understanding and practice of ministry. They will to maintain the highest standards and will seek to give of their very best as they exercise the ministry to which God has called them. All ministers need support in times of difficulty. The College of Baptist Ministers shares that vision and wants to provide a forum where ministers can resource one another so that together we can rise to the challenges of mission and ministry in an ever changing world. We recognise that there are other Baptist bodies, including theological colleges and associations, which already include these ambitions in their work – but this is our exclusive focus in which we as Baptist ministers seek to support one another.
A professional body
We want to be a professional body. Sadly amongst some the concept of ‘professionalism’ is misunderstood. There is the assumption that to be professional is to be unspiritual. We believe that to be a mistaken view.
The actual word ‘profession’ stems from the medieval Latin word ‘professio’, which was used of the taking of vows upon entering a religious order. Gradually the word broadened in its usage and came to indicate ‘a vocation in which a professed knowledge of some department of learning or science is used in its application to the affairs of others or in the practice of an art founded upon it’ (Oxford English Dictionary). In other words, professionals are people who apply their knowledge in the service of others. Surely this is what we as Christian ministers seek to do? We are not in the business of knowledge for knowledge’s sake – but rather we use our knowledge in the service of others.
Professionalism, rightly understood, implies offering to God our very best – both of mind and of heart. There is nothing cold or unspiritual about professionalism. Professionalism involves whole-hearted commitment to Christ and his church. A lack of professionalism in ministry is more often than not a mark of laziness rather than of unspirituality. “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing”, said David (2 Samuel 24.24) – such a spirit is the spirit is the spirit of the true professional. It is in this sense that we want to be a professional body. We want to raise standards in ministry ‘to the greater glory of God’. That is the vision that drives us.
A caring fellowship
We want the best for God, and we want the best for Baptist ministers too. At one stage we were considering strap-lines for this new body. One possibility we suggested was ‘to help you complete the course’; another was ‘to keep you strong in your calling’. We have the welfare of ministers in mind. We want to be there for ministers when the going is tough; and we want to be there when ministry is flourishing, and there is much good to be celebrated. Yes ministry can be tough, but it can also be exhilarating. There is no calling which is higher and more fulfilling – but there is also no calling which is more stressful and more painful.
Our vision is that in those tough times we will be there. We recognise that we are not the only Baptist organisation concerned for the well-being of our members – not least the Baptist Ministers Fellowship continues to play a significant role in pastoral care. However, we are different from the Baptist Ministers Fellowship. One of our set aims, for instance, is that “we will provide peer support for ministers who find themselves in dispute with their church”. On those sad occasions when relationships have broken down, we want to be there for our members.
Regional ministers carry a prime responsibility for the care of ministers, but the reality is that there are limits to what regional ministers can offer ministers. For when a regional minister is called into a troubled situation, the regional minister has to be there for both the church and the minister – and in so doing has the difficult task of holding in balance conflicting responsibilities. The church may feel the regional minister is on the side of the minister, while the minister may believe the regional minister is on the side of the church. We believe that in times of trouble ministers can benefit from those whose sole purpose is to accompany them through difficult times. At those times we want to be amongst those to whom our members can turn.
Indeed, we will be there for our members, whatever the circumstances. Often situations are not that clear cut; sadly ministers can say unhelpful things not because they want to be unhelpful, but because they are so stressed out. Hopefully the presence of a supportive friend will make matters easier. Whatever, we will be there to care.
A resource centre offering wisdom and expertise
We want to be there to provide help to ministers seeking advice, spiritual direction and work consultancy. The fact is that ministry can be a lonely business. The majority of our ministers do not have the privilege of working in team ministry – and even those who do can benefit from the wisdom of others beyond the local church.
Increasingly ministers are realising the benefits of regular spiritual direction and work supervision. Hopefully the College will be able to point its members to people who are qualified to offer such direction and supervision.
In many churches annual appraisals have become the norm. However, experience shows that an outside ministerial facilitator working with a couple of deacons can make the process of appraisal much more worthwhile. Hopefully the College will be able to point ministers to trained facilitators willing to offer their services.
Most ministers now avail themselves of a sabbatical every seven years or so; for in doing so they have discovered them to be key opportunities for renewal and re-envisioning. However, many find the planning of the sabbatical difficult: the choice of a study topic, recommendations of where to go and what to read. Hopefully the College will be able to offer guidance to ensure that ministers make the most of their time.
Then there are the times when all of a sudden an issue raises its head, and a minister senses the need for advice. Hopefully the College will be able to provide consultants with wisdom and experience.
Finally, a key resource of the College will be its interactive web-site. It is interactive in the sense that members are able to share their own wisdom and expertise on every aspect of ministry. For instance, we envisage the website becoming a forum where sabbatical experiences and reports can be shared. The website will include details and links to resources ministers have created and documents they have produced.
We recognise that there are many other bodies which already offer all kinds of helpful resources to ministers, but a distinctive that we will have in common with association is that we will be operating within a Baptist context, offering resources, created by our members, meeting the specific needs of Baptist ministers.
A programme for personal continuing ministerial development
We want to promote the health and well-being of ministers through encouraging every one of our members to create their own personal programme for continuing ministerial development. With this in mind we have identified the following seven strands which we believe are vital to the well-being of every minister. In alphabetical order, they are:-.
Accountability – regularly opening our lives to the supportive scrutiny of one or two others.
Applied Practice – gaining new insights through reflecting on our experience of ministry and church life, learning through failure as well as success, pioneering new ways of doing mission and ministry, creating courses that help our people grow in their faith, becoming more effective as a preacher, developing new skills in managing change, resolving conflict, building team, and in leading God’s people forward
Appraisal – on an annual basis allowing others to help us review our ministries, affirming all that has been positive in the past year, and agreeing the shape of ministry for the coming year.
Collegiality – meeting together with other ministers to strengthen, encourage and support one another.
Learning – through attending courses, reading books, working for a formal qualification, or simply going on a broadening sabbatical.
Practical competencies – relating to some of the more practical competencies of ministry identified by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, such as IT skills and safeguarding policies
Spirituality – sustaining and deepening our walk with God.
Every member will be helped to create a personal online portfolio accessed through the internet – this portfolio will be secure and accessible only to the member and to those charged to monitor the portfolio, unless specific permission is given to others by the member. Members will be encouraged to post regularly brief date-marked entries according to the strands - over the year we would expect members to post something in every strand. Apart from the spirituality strand, which would be difficult to assess, each experience of development would link to a way in which it could be confirmed, for the rare occasion where verification could be helpful to the minister together with the date when the would be encouraged to post entries regularly in their portfolio, at least every two months.
The fact is that in a fast-changing world we cannot simply fall back upon what we learnt in college. Continual updating of personal and professional skills is a ‘must’ if ministers are not to be ‘happy amateurs’. But at the moment most of us are. Some years ago the American church consultant Roy Oswald lamented that “only 20% of clergy in the US engage in regular continuing education events of five days or more each year”. Probably among Baptist ministers in the UK the percentage is much lower. Surely we could do better!
We wish to stress that first and foremost this programme of continuing ministerial development is for the benefit of the members. We do not believe that the maintenance of the online portfolio will prove burdensome – rather we trust that it will be viewed as a positive stimulus to growth and development. We hope that churches will welcome this new initiative. We could imagine that the maintenance of an on-line portfolio will cause ministers to be more attractive to churches seeking a new minister. Furthermore, the presence of such a portfolio could prove helpful to members on those rare occasions when there is a dispute – for the portfolio would be a clear sign of a minister’s professional approach to ministry.
A code of ministerial ethics
We are committed to developing an appropriate code of ethics for our members. Some work has already been done in this area. For instance, a Code of Ethics for Baptist Ministry emerged from a consultation at the Baptist colleges’ staff conference in 2004; in 2011 the Baptist Union of Great Britain approved a document entitled A Guide to Pastoral Realities and Ministry However, more work needs to be done in this area. What’s more, a code of ethics cannot just be imposed – it needs to be understood and accepted by all concerned.
Some argue that codes of ethics can lead to legalism, and what counts is a person’s walk with the Lord. And yet, while codes of ethics may have their limitations, they do point to what it means in practice for ministers to go the way of Jesus. Perhaps one way of avoiding legalism is deliberately drawing up a simple code of ethics, and then accompanying it with a more detailed commentary – somewhat akin to the Jewish haggadah – illustrating the way in which the code might be applied.
A College of Baptist Ministers
Finally, notice that we are not a College ‘for’ Baptist ministers, but a College ‘of’ Baptist ministers. The fact is that a college need not denote a training institution; the Oxford Dictionaries Online gives the second meaning of college as ‘an organised group of professional people with particular aims, duties and privileges’. It is in this latter sense that we are a College composed of Baptist ministers – we are all ‘colleagues’ supporting one another.
The College of Baptist Ministers is very different from a theological college. A theological college is made up of experts and novices – the experts are the teachers, and the novices are the students. However, the College of Baptist Ministers is made up of its members – we are there for one another. Although eventually we may be able to employ paid staff, first and foremost the College will be run by its members for its members. Our vision is that our members will formulate policies; our members will contribute to the web-site; our members will be there to offer wisdom and advice, support and advocacy, and whatever else other members need. This is a College of peers.
Here is the vision of the College of Baptist Ministers. If you share this vision - come and join us!
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