Rural churches sometimes don’t have access to the same opportunities as city churches. But thanks to a wonderful partnership between MTS and the Timothy Partnership (itself a partnership between the Anglican and Presbyterian churches), ministry apprentices can have the chance to be trained and gain theological education, no matter where they live.
Over the last few years, Scott Dunlop has taken advantage of this partnership, bringing on board several apprentices at Gunnedah Anglican.
One of them is Lisa Newnham, a speech pathologist by training. Lisa came to MTS after meeting Scott and his wife, Jo, on a mission trip to Uganda. She was already living and working in the country, but relocated to Gunnedah for her apprenticeship.
Lisa was grateful not to have to move to a big city to train in ministry. “I really have a heart for the country and see that there’s so many opportunities in the country to be serving God and lots of people who need to hear about Jesus,” she says.
Scott, with the help of Jo, trained Lisa in a number of areas of ministry, including SRE, kids ministry, youth group, and one-to-one ministry with women. But he also recognised that in order for Lisa to be best prepared for future ministry, she would benefit from some solid time dedicated to studying the Bible.
“From a trainer’s point of view, it’s important to help your MTS apprentice develop in the three Cs: Competency, Conviction, Character. When you’re working on your program, it’s important to allocate good time for actual theological learning – conviction stuff,” Scott explains.
“It was good to be able to continue to grow in that conviction through the Timothy Partnership studies,” Lisa agrees.
Lisa didn’t need to travel to a city to complete her studies: the Timothy Partnership offers a well-developed online program, enabling her to stay on the ground in the country, serving in the area God has given her a heart for.
“It was a blessing to be able to study online. I was even able to do that with a cohort of other MTS apprentices who were going through similar experiences and learning similar things at the same time,” Lisa says.
Lisa was an apprentice at Gunnedah from 2018-19. At the end of that time, Scott was offered a new opportunity for his family: planting a new church in the booming area of North Tamworth.
“I’ve always had a heart for evangelism and want to see people come to know Jesus and be with him for eternity and you only get one crack at life. You want to be where Jesus wants you to be. So I felt that this is where he wanted us to be even though it was going back to starting with a small team and seeing it grow,” Scott shares.
The Dunlops moved to Tamworth at the beginning of 2020, and Scott knew that the perfect person to join him in launching the new church was right in front of him. He was thrilled to invite Lisa along as a part-time women and children’s worker.
While city churches might have the luxury of hiring staff with Bachelor or Masters’ degrees in Theology, you can’t always be so picky in the country. But Scott was highly confident to appoint Lisa in this new position even without a full degree.
“Lisa’s just been a really good fit here at the moment and God’s been using her. Her MTS training has prepared her well for what she’s doing,” Scott says. “Of course, it’s important that in ministry that you’ve got a good knowledge of God’s word and therefore know what you’re talking about. But that’s where the Timothy Partnership comes in. So if there’s anybody that’s thinking, I’ve got a heart to serve and I’m prepared to grow and learn, there’s plenty of opportunities in country.”
Interested in undertaking an MTS apprenticeship in the country? Or, interested in training an apprentice at your rural church? Get in touch today to find out more about how the Timothy Partnership could enrich the experience.