'We want to release the potential of young adults into the church and wider Baptist life'
In September 2019, The London Baptist Association launched the LBA Leadership Year, a new internship programme aimed at 18-25 years olds. What is it, and how’s it going?
The thinking behind the programme
“I felt that we needed a priority around young adults, particularly around hearing the voice of young adults,” notes Lee Johnson (pictured), who arrived at the Association as a Regional Minister in October 2018. “We want to release the potential of young adults into our churches and the wider Baptist family.
“So I came with a desire to get something going. Not just to provide space for people to work in a church; it’s not simply a local church placement. If it’s within the Association, it needs to be listening and learning.”
Thinking along similar lines was Pete Herbert-James, who had joined the LBA earlier in 2018 as its Children, Youth & Young Adults Lead. Pete had previously worked with The Kings Cross Baptist Church for 11 years in Student and Young Adults ministry, during which time he had been involved in creating the LBA’s Younger Leaders’ Network with several younger ministers across the capital.
“This is a city full of young adults and as an LBA we want to really invest in them, both within the local church context and to release them into the wider church family.
“As an Association, we want to learn from young adults, to listen to their voices, so that they are helping shape what we do.”
Together Lee and Pete put together a programme which aimed to meet these objectives. It had the full support of the Association and its Board, and secured Home Mission funding to ensure as wide a range of access as possible (the funding means there is no upfront cost to the interns, so costs for the training, travel, living expenses and other material/resources are covered by the LBA. The church provides the accommodation). The programme was advertised in early summer 2019, with the first intake ready to start in September.
What does the LBA internship programme consist of?
There are four key elements to the LBA’s Leadership Year the programme.
Theological and ministry training, which has involved study at Spurgeon’s College.
Secondly, leadership development training, which involves a specific leadership training programme run by Lee and Pete with the support of other local ministers.
Placement, which has two, concurrent streams. There’s a three day a week placement within a church setting, which includes Sundays. There is also a regional element: each week the interns are based in the LBA office; and an occasional national element to give a broad picture of Baptist life
Mentoring, is the fourth component, with each intern assigned their own mentor. “We recognise that’s really important within any leadership development, and we know it’s something that young adults really want, and is of great benefit” says Pete.
Three young adults signed up for the first year of the programme. Nosa Idehen (22yrs) has been a member of Barking Baptist Church since she was three. Last summer she had recently finished her biochemistry degree when Lee preached at her church and mentioned the internship programme.
“I was looking at what to do next. Lots of doors were closing on the medical side. Nothing made sense.?
“Lee came to our church and had spoken about the internship, and my pastor suggested it to me.?I felt like God was redirecting me. This was nothing to do with biochemistry. Often it doesn’t go the way you plan.”
She is now placed at Frampton Park Baptist Church in Hackney, where she has led worship, been involved in pastoral ministry alongside the two bi-vocational ministers there, organised youth nights and has just begun to provide science tuition for children in the church and community. “Being placed in a different church has been brilliant,” she says, “I’ve really loved it.
“It’s been really interesting to see what ministers do, and gain an insight into all that goes on. It’s also interesting to see how the LBA takes care of the churches. It offers a lot, but I feel churches aren’t aware of this or don’t take advantage.??
“Next year I want to apply for medicine, but also to go back to my home church and use what I’ve learned this year in a leadership role there.”
Lee says that Nosa returning to her home church armed with greater leadership knowledge and awareness is what the programme is for. “Nosa?having a good grasp of leadership will help them enormously. Nosa taking on a leadership role, but not becoming a minister, is a just as big a success.”
Matt Reeves (25yrs), is putting his experience of organising festivals to good use at Mill Hill East Church in North West London. Matt was working for Creation Fest when he heard about the LBA internship programme.
“I was attracted by the whole idea of learning leadership with God’s presence,” he explains. “It’s how we can actually go from not just having general leadership skills, but learning how God’s given us these gifts and how we should use them within the church. I feel like I’ve got some leadership skills, and I wanted to learn how I could go further and use them.”
Matt has been doing “all sorts of stuff” in the role at his church, including preaching, leading the services, and times of prayer. He describes it as being thrown in at the deep end. “I’ve really been challenged in stepping out of my comfort zone. I’d never done any full on, proper sort of leadership – I’d had leadership roles, but never had to lead people.
“So I’ve been learning about myself, and where my skills are, where I need to get help, where I need to improve in those areas of leadership. I’ve really enjoyed being pushed.”
Just before he joined, Mill Hill were part of a group of local churches exploring the idea of a Pentecost festival, but not exactly sure how to go about it. He was helping to lead the Churches Together team to set up the festival in May, before the coronavirus pandemic forced the event's cancellation.
Robert Glendenning (23yrs), joined the programme having previously completed an internship in a church, but says this one felt different. “It offered both training and leadership,” he explains. Rob senses a calling to leadership, and had done a foundation year studying theology at Moorlands College.
He’s been based at Cross Street Baptist Church in Islington, an inner city church, where he has led children’s and youth work, set up an Alpha Course, and even taught English as a foreign language. “That’s something I’d never thought I’d be doing!”
He adds, “Aside from the theology training, I’ve been learning a lot about time management, a lot about what happens in the background at churches, as well as a lot of stuff leaders do: I’ve been able to shadow the minister at Cross Street, see what he does, everything that’s involved in planning weddings, even baptisms.”
Rob has enjoyed seeing all that happens at Association and national level, and is grateful for the range of perspectives he’s been able to access.
“I feel that God may be leading me into becoming a pastor, but I still need to look into that,” he says.
“We listen to them”
This is the first year of the internship programme, and Pete and Lee are pleased with how it’s going so far.
“It’s been a great learning experience for us as an Association,” Pete (pictured) says. “It’s been great to have three interns with us this year bringing a fresh voice into all that we do, with ideas for the things that we’re doing as well, suggesting different things.
“We believe it’s going really well for them. They seem to be connected well in their local church.”
Lee adds, “It’s great to have them in the Association; and get some great input on all sorts of things. We listen to them. We seem to be getting very positive feedback from the churches and the interns themselves. They’ve been able to get involved with all sorts of levels of leadership in the church, so it’s been a great experience for them and us. We’re looking forward to next year and hoping to increase the programme.”
This article appears in the Summer 2020 edition of Baptists Together magazine
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