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Growing in discipleship

05 July 2013

Steven Croft reads a guide for ordained and lay ministers

Developing in Ministry: Handbook for effective Christian learning and training
Neil Evans
SPCK £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70 (Use code CT448 )

NEIL EVANS's Developing in Ministry is a simple, practical, and earthed guide to helping lay and ordained ministers grow in their discipleship. Evans writes from his considerable experience in parish ministry, and as a teacher and trainer for others.

The primary focus is teaching and learning in parishes, though the lessons of the book are helpful and relevant to a range of contexts, including theological education. The book is a worthy addition to the SPCK Library of Ministry.

The principle that lies at the core of the book is that learning begins with the learner, not the teacher: an approach that Evans describes as organic. There are helpful chapters on shaping learning and learning styles, on delegation and development, and on varieties of parish-based learning, reflection, and the importance of review; and a helpful chapter grounds the formational principles in a theology of the Trinity.

The book is basic without being superficial, and it is also very practical. It will be helpful to ordinands, Readers in training, and those in the first years of ministry. The examples and stories are particularly good. My favourite chapter was the one on situational leadership, development, and delegation. Evans has a wide vision of developing in ministry, taking in Christian nurture courses, stewardship, leadership-development training, and preparation for lay pastoral ministry.

If you are more experienced, but seeking to review and refresh learning in the parish, this would be an excellent place to begin. If you are setting up a pastoral team, or looking to extend the range of people involved in ministry, or wondering why what you have done previously hasn't worked so well, then this would be an excellent book to have beside you on the journey. A lay team working together on parish formation could helpfully read it together.

I think that the title of the book could be much clearer: Developing Ministry would be more helpful than Developing in Ministry. I had the idea before I started reading that this was a guide to continuing professional development for the clergy rather than a handbook for parish education and training. It certainly has things to say about the former, but focuses on developing the ministry of others. Definitions of dis- cipleship and ministry are extremely difficult to develop, but something further here would be useful as well. The practical, worked examples are the real strengths of the book. It would be good to see more of these, as they are invaluable.

This is most definitely a book not only to buy and read, but also to give to others starting out in this kind of ministry.

Dr Steven Croft is the Bishop of Sheffield, and chairs the Ministry Division of the Archbishops' Council.

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