In the late 1990’s several churches in the Western Cape area captured a vision for apprenticeship training as an invaluable key to long-term gospel growth. This vision was born largely out of our interaction with key figures within the Australian Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) who shared what they were doing at Universities in Sydney and across Australia. Although considerable fruit was born out of this interaction, our local programs have generally had an erratic history. The main features hindering this work seems to have been a lack of unity and cooperation across churches (although there were early efforts at regional training like the MAP program launched in 2004), as well as lack of dedicated staff to oversee this ministry. Local ministers generally did not have the time and energy to invest in keeping such a program going (at least at the regional level).
St Paul’s church in Stellenbosch was one of the key churches that captured the apprenticeship training vision. Since the late 1990’s St Paul’s has trained many apprentices, many of whom have gone on to further theological study and are involved in full-time gospel ministry all around the world. Throughout this time St Paul’s has gleaned considerable experience and expertise in running such a program and has increasingly desired to share this more broadly with others.
Out of this desire, several leaders came together to form Timothy Evangelical Network Trust (TENT). Our vision and four-pronged strategy of recruitment, apprenticeship, theological training and ministry multiplication has been shaped particularly by our interaction with the local implementation of the MTS strategy by ENTRUST in KZN. TENT’s stated commitment is to, “RAISE UP AND TRAIN A NEW GENERATION OF GOSPEL WORKERS in the Western Cape and beyond”.
To this end, TENT recognized the need for full-time staff who are able to oversee apprenticeship training, recruitment, and to assist local churches and ministers with their training. In 2010, John-Paul Harper, a past apprentice of St Paul’s church, completed his studies at GWC, and joined the St Paul’s staff team with a specific focus of developing the apprenticeship program there. TENT has supported him since 2010 to oversee the program at St Paul’s as well as to be involved in training at the regional level through the HOPE training course. Much has been invested at St Paul’s because we have recognized the importance of a strong ‘hub’ or ‘center of excellence’ for apprenticeship training which will be a model and inspiration to others. We hope to see more churches in the Western Cape become and develop as such ‘centres of excellence’ for apprenticeship training in the future. Characteristics of such a hub would be
- A focus on expository Bible preaching and driven by a biblical philosophy of ministry.
- Access to many young people 20-30s as a recruiting ground (a University context is ideal).
- A training ground where apprentices can learn the basic skills of ministry and have diverse opportunities to serve. Apprentices should ideally be able to experience church life and ministry in a family, student, and cross-cultural context.
- A heritage of apprenticeship training with clear structure and goals in place, together with a diverse staff team to offer oversight and feedback.
Over the last three years, TENT has supported twelve apprentices both at St Paul’s and Emmanuel church, of whom one is now employed in a full-time capacity at St Paul’s and another is studying at GWC. Others are playing important roles in their local church and some are still considering the possibility of paid gospel ministry.
TENT has also actively supported and played a leadership role in the regional HOPE training course. HOPE is a one day a week training course where apprentices from around the Western Cape are equipped with basic ministry skills of interpreting, applying and communicating God’s Word in a contextually relevant way. In its two years of running, over 30 students have come through HOPE, of whom five are currently studying at GWC.