Confessions of a Trainee Vicar

How To Survive Theological College

green leafed plant on sand

GUEST POST:// Craig Philbrick is a dad, husband, and vicar in training, and a fan of animated gifs. 

I’m about to leave vicar school and join a wonderful three-church benefice on the South Coast. It’s a blend of tradition and church plant, and I’m eager to steal all their wisdom and to play my part. But before I go, Hannah asked for some words* — so here are my three tips to pass onto you:

1. The importance of praying and study
I have realised I need to find time to ensure that I still get what I need as a disciple of Christ. Chapel, walks, and church with the family have all sustained me during my training. Theological colleges can be argumentative hotbeds, but don’t let this dampen your enthusiasm for the Gospel and Mission and the Church. Enjoy the gift of study and get interested is those things that will support you in parish ministry.  Ignore the rest.

2. Go on mission
Going on mission is the best thing I’ve done at college.  Having put the effort in with the academic study, go and make Jesus known.  Here are some lessons I leant from a student mission with the late Michael Green to Lancaster last year.  I think the mission of the church is summarised in the Great Commission: we proclaim and make disciples.  The Great Commission was not given to spiritual giants: it was given to an ordinary group of devoted, failure-prone learners — to people like us.  We proclaim it though both spoken and enacted words, this is our goal.  It is true that the church is not truly the church unless it is engaging in mission because we are called to be a blessing, to witness, and to preach the life message of Jesus to all. Falling to do this means we are just another members-only club.

3. Go grow a church 
I’ve learnt that being church is not just a salvation project but it’s our missional opportunity.  We are known and seen by God and he sends us to new places, in new ways, with new people (Matt. 28:16-20). Have a theology of growth (not a theology of maintaining) and know that you can be a disciple maker, who then goes on to create disciples themselves. To achieve this you have to enable every member ministry, identify opportunities, develop them and then plant.

To sum-up: the best advice for surviving Theological College is to get out of it! Remember you’re only called to college for a season, but to the big, wide world for a lifetime.

*Are you an ordinand? Do you have something of your experiences of training or your vocational story that you’d like to share? Please do get in touch and let’s get your voice heard!

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