Recruiting and training with intention with Mike Wong

Saved by grace as a teenager, Mike Wong is passionate about seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ shared, taught and lived. In 2024 he is training his second MTS apprentice in his church, Thurgoona Presbyterian Church, part of Albury Presbyterian Churches

Mike shares, “I first heard about MTS through Club Five Conference when I was in uni. I went along and was really challenged about the place of ministry in my life.”

After Mike finished uni he and his wife Kara left Sydney and moved to Wagga Wagga. He worked in regional NSW as a high school teacher for several years, before that challenge for ministry eventually led him to Bible College and into vocational ministry.

Empowered by training culture

Having been interested in the model of MTS back at ‘Club Five’ while he was in university, training stayed on Mike’s mind as he went into ministry. Moving to Albury Presbyterian Churches saw him surrounded by a great training culture.

He says, “There’s always been a training culture around our churches and our church network. [One of our team], Paul Sheely, is particularly a great champion for training through MTS. I saw Paul train people over the years. So I just jumped on board when the time was right.”

Mike’s first apprentice Christie finished her apprenticeship in 2023 and in 2024 is going to Sydney Missionary Bible College. Now, in January 2024, he has a new apprentice starting called Chelsea. Mike and his wife Kara will both input in training her. 

Intentional training for the individual

An ‘average’ week is different for every apprentice as it is for every ministry worker generally, but Mike does work to implement regular rhythms for his apprentices so they have good exposure to ministry and access to training. 

Apprentices attend the weekly staff meetings which involve staff from across the network, and then Mike and his apprentice will spend time going through specific things for their church. He says, “We reflect on ministry, how it went on Sunday and the different responsibilities they have, along with any questions they have.”

On Fridays, they check-in via Zoom, and also other check-ins happen throughout the week as they see each other in ministry. Mike says, “If she’s at Kids Club and I’m helping out there, I might see how she’s going. We can touch base, but she’s doing things, I’m doing things. We might chat, but the basic times are those Tuesday, Friday times, and then church on Sunday.”

Mike and Kara also plan to have Chelsea over for dinner each fortnight, which they also did with Christie. He shares, “We share life together. It’s a chance for her to hang out with the kids and enjoy some food. And then she will have a couple of hours with Kara.” 

Why raising up apprentices is essential

Mike reflects, “I think it’s part of the great commission to make disciples of all nations and to see gospel workers raised up to win the world for Christ. So biblically, there are just really great reasons to keep training apprentices particularly, gospel workers.”

He also sees the value of having apprentices on the team in pastoral ministry, not only just for their important ministry contributions but for how they help their trainers rely on Christ and trust in him through prayer and planning. 

Mike says, “It’s great fun and it’s a privilege to invest in apprentices. It also value adds in a sense, to see the apprentice serving and growing and it’s great for the church.”

Mike, with former apprentice Christie (left) and current apprentice CHelsea (right)

Encouraging gospel-minded thinking

For those thinking through how to encourage people to even consider gospel work, Mike credits culture, conversations and the Bible! 

He shares, “The culture that exists is really important. We’ve jumped on board with that. And so we want to see that come out in sermons.” 

A practical step Albury Presbyterian Churches implement is running an MTS Info Night. Mike explains, “We invite all the people in all our churches to come along to the Info Night. I’m sort of the MTS champion for our network at the moment. And so, I keep encouraging the pastors too, asking ‘are there people worth watching?’ And to put that question before them, because, like me, if it isn’t raised to the surface, it’ll just get whisked away.”

Mike also likes to see people go along to MTS Recruit, and is intentional about making sure people are encouraged to attend. Apprentices themselves also make the best advertisement for doing an apprenticeship, and Mike is grateful to have had a steady stream within the network who have encouraged others to think it through themselves. 

Mike reflects, “I’m really thankful that MTS exists, that we don’t have to make it up ourselves. That there are resources and time and effort and people on staff who are working behind the scenes. It’s a great privilege to train people and I’m thankful for that.”