Investing in intentional training to develop effective workers

If there’s one thing Dave Chiswell is passionate about, it’s training ministry apprentices. Having benefited from being trained himself, it’s no wonder he has ended up a great 2 Timothy 2:2 trainer and champion. 

Loved and led by Jesus

“I grew up in a Christian family, with wonderful Christian parents who prayed before I was born that I would never know a day when Jesus was not my Lord and Savior,” Dave explains. “And as far as I can tell, God’s answered that prayer with a yes.”

He grew up in the church and was shown the value of serving God in all aspects of life – from Sunday kids ministry, to youth group, to drumming at a Sunday service. “It was really formative for me. So the system works, at least some of the time,” Dave laughs.

Dave’s journey to ministry all started when he began studying at Deakin University in 2010, as he got involved with the AFES group on campus, where he benefited from being mentored and saw the impact of gospel work and the advantage of doing an apprenticeship. 

So after graduation, Dave jumped into a ministry apprenticeship at Deakin University where he was trained by Pete Sorrenson.

Dave reflects, “I loved [the apprenticeship], …working with a ministry team on campus, I could see they had tools that I didn’t have, and I really wanted them—and they got them at Bible college.”

So Dave headed off to study theology at Ridley College in 2015. After graduating in 2018, he joined the staff team at City on a Hill in Melbourne. 

Empowering church for training

18 months ago, he moved to City on a Hill in Geelong, where he is the Youth Minister. He also trains as many ministry apprentices as he possibly can—currently four.

“I had come through apprenticeship-type ministries, so I was a big fan,” Dave explains. “And the church just really got behind it as an idea. We raised about $50,000 in a month to support the idea of apprenticeships. We didn’t know who at that point. But everyone was aware that training workers for harvest field matters.” 

Dave feels deeply grateful for the opportunity to invest one day each week training the ministry apprentices.

“It’s been a real joy to see it become a priority for the church over the last few years,” he explains, “and for us to put our money where the mouth is on that.”

Investing for the future (of people and the gospel)

Each of Dave’s four apprentices have taken on significant responsibilities at the church.

“We depend on them a lot, and then there’s all the stuff that comes with being an apprentice,” Dave says. “I’ll meet with them one-on-one for an hour each week. And then we have what we call the hour of power where I’ll do some training for all of them as well. People often say it’s what is caught, more than what is taught. So you just want to get them in the room to catch stuff as often as you can.”

“I think one of my philosophies around training is generosity,” Dave reflects. “It’s something I try to do really well—to share life and ministry. I’m pretty happy for them to pick apart my ministry, or other ministries of the church, and we’ll get into what’s going well and what’s not going so well. Being really transparent and having the right to ask questions about everything they see becomes a key part of their experience.”

Dave is adamant that more churches should be putting on ministry apprentices.

“You should be aware that the investment is heavier than you think, initially,” he cautions. “But the payoff is much greater than you expect down the track.”

For Dave, it’s all about investing in his apprentices. 

“Training goes badly when you’re not willing to invest in people well, and then they don’t repay the investment that you didn’t make and everyone wonders why you did it,” he explains. “But if you can pour into people,  particularly over two years, they just become invaluable members. Both of our apprentices last year have since been hired by our church, because we weren’t ready to say goodbye.”

There are some who criticise churches for exploiting MTS apprentices as ‘cheap labour,’ but Dave refutes that claim.

“You don’t do it because it’s cheap labour, because it actually is costly and it’s a bad way to plug gaps—but it’s a great way to build your capacity, as long as you’re willing to do that for a couple of years.”

As well as being a keen MTS trainer, Dave is also a passionate and intentional youth minister. Read great insights from Dave in youth ministry on The Gospel Coalition Australia.