Faithful ministry under an ever-faithful God with Avril Lonsdale

“I came back with a great heart for training up men and women for vocational ministry. That was always on the agenda. The intentionality that I had experienced at St. George North Anglican to then go back and be intentional myself as a trainer has just been wonderful.”  

God’s faithful hand has been clear throughout Avril Lonsdale’s life, leading her to new life in him and now into vocational ministry. She shares her encouraging story of faith and experience as an MTS apprentice and now MTS trainer!

Faithful witness

Avril’s early experience of God was attending Easter and Christmas church gatherings with her family. To them, church was a good place for good morals.

When she started school at the local public school Avril was enrolled in school scripture and started to learn who God was and that he wanted to have a relationship with her. However, she still didn’t really know what that meant for her. 

In Year 3 Avril moved to Danebank Anglican School, where she attended chapel and learnt even more. She reflects, “God was very kind in giving me this sensitivity to want to know him.”

Avril shares, “I distinctly remember in Year 4, the chaplain in their sermon said, ‘Jesus wants to be your friend. He’s at your heart’s door. He’s knocking on the door, just let him in’. I just remember thinking I want him to be in my heart. But then also very clearly worrying – how do I know if he stays? How do I get him to stay?”

From this point, Avril wanted to know Jesus but she didn’t know how to ‘stay friends with him’. She spent a long time trying to be the best daughter and the best student, thinking that being good was what Jesus needed from her. But then in Year 7, God brought an important friend into her life.

“I had a Christian friend. She came to our school in Year 7, and she went to the local church, St George North Anglican, with her family. And she invited a bunch of us along to youth group.” Avril shares. 

It was one of these nights at youth group that Avril heard a talk on the book of Romans, and she understood grace through Jesus. She then decided to commit to following Jesus and stayed involved in youth group, and then later in church. 

Avril and past apprentice Emily

What are you living for?

After the faithfulness of scripture teachers, Christian friends, chaplains, teachers and youth group leaders – God continued to use people to grow Avril. 

After she finished high school and ‘graduated’ youth group, her leader at the time took her out for coffee to celebrate the HSC ending and talk about what’s next. 

Avril shares, “She took it as a chance to say, ‘Okay, you’re finishing high school. What’s it going to look like for you to be a Christian now?’ And so for me, I wasn’t part of church because my family didn’t go and they didn’t want me to go on a Sunday, so I had to work that out. Then the question was, ‘How do I get involved in church, but also how do you serve?’ She was very clear that Christians used their gifts to serve. She was our kids’ minister at the time, so she said, ‘Well, I do kids ministry, you’ll come with me’.”

Avril got involved with kids ministry and learnt how to teach the Bible to younger kids, which was formative in her understanding the Bible better too. She was also part of a group of young adults who were encouraged by another minister at their church to consider how to use their lives to serve Jesus in a full-time vocation. 

She says, “Right from the start of becoming an adult and taking my faith on for myself, it was put before me to go and consider whether I could do full-time ministry. As a group, our minister would gather us for dinners sometimes to talk about different ministry ideas. He’d take us along to MTS Recruit and would talk to us about what we heard. He was very big on challenging us to consider what we are living for.”

During university, the idea of ministry stayed in the back of Avril’s mind and she continued to think it over through her degree, and then into the workforce. She worked with her dad in his business for a few years, knowing that she was planning to go into ministry afterwards.

Avril as a speaker on a panel at G8 conference 2024

The ‘trained’ and now the trainer

In 2014, Avril started an MTS Apprenticeship at St George North with senior minister Phil Colgan and his wife Vic as her trainers. 

She shares, “I loved it. It was a great opportunity to get to try a bunch of different things and have that intentional training to see what it means to serve Jesus in this particular vocational way.”

After her apprenticeship, and with the support of her trainers and church, Avril went to Moore College to be further trained. 

In God’s great kindness, after completing her study, there was a role suitable for her back at St George North! She began her role as Assistant Minister in 2021, and in 2022 an opportunity came up to train her own apprentice alongside her previous trainer, Phil. Throughout 2022 and 2023 they trained Emily, and now in 2024 and into 2025 they are training a second apprentice, Andrea!

Avril says, “I came back with a great heart for training up men and women for vocational ministry. That was always on the agenda. The intentionality that I had experienced at St. George North Anglican to then go back and be able to be intentional myself as a trainer when I get to train has just been wonderful.”  

Working and now training at the church she herself was trained in is special. Avril sees herself in partnership with all the members in ministry, and they were instrumental in raising her up. 

She reflects, “There is a sense that the church congregation is also training apprentices as they interact and serve alongside them and support them. So there’s a real blessing when as a congregation, you’ve trained people in that way and then they come back and you can see what God’s been doing in their life.”

As a trainer, Avril is learning how to teach without imposing ‘sameness’, which highlights the uniqueness of how apprentices learn! She shares, “It involves working out how God has gifted my apprentice, and thinking about what areas she needs to grow in. But also giving her space to try things – even if I wouldn’t do it that way!”

For Avril, the process of seeing apprentices gain confidence as they explore ministry and grow in maturity and skills is hugely rewarding. 

To those thinking about doing an apprenticeship – she says it’s a good thing to do and a rare opportunity! Avril shares, “It’s not often that you get a chance to be freed up to consider full-time ministry where you have the support of a trainer and of your church family. So it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore what it’s like and your suitability. God will use it and grow you through it. You’ll come out greatly encouraged and shaped, and be equipped for a lifetime of serving Him – whatever that may look like!”