How an MTS apprenticeship can ensure that time is set aside for vital, relational ministry
Deciding exactly when to commence her MTS apprenticeship took a little time for Amanda Wang – but now she’s underway, she’s found that making time to invest in sharing the gospel is exactly what she needed to do.
Having heard about MTS apprenticeships through her church, Amanda and her husband attended the MTS Recruit conference. They were both planning to do MTS, but her husband’s training as a doctor was not yet complete.
So when other women who’d done MTS apprenticeships helped Amanda to think through how MTS might fit with other plans for the future, she decided that the time was now! What suddenly seemed like a quick decision was actually something that she had been mulling over for quite some time.
Amanda left her full-time job in optometry to start her apprenticeship this year, although she still works in optometry one day per week.
This means she has time to minister through her apprenticeship four days a week; but also keep sharing her faith with her optometry colleagues each Wednesday – what Amanda describes as ‘a window for ministry work in my secular work as well’.
And the other four days? Well, they’re all about people and time: getting to know people, and investing time in genuine, caring relationships with them.
What characterises Amanda’s ministry work is a genuine desire to know people, to introduce people to church and Jesus, to gently open the way for gospel conversations – and to disciple people who already know Christ. And even after only a few months, Amanda’s MTS apprenticeship is already providing so many opportunities – and so much time – for her to do all of those things.
A busy, varied life
Some of this takes place through Amanda’s ministry work with young children and their parents. She has been teaching the crèche-aged children at church, and is also involved with outreach ministry through ‘Mainly Music’, where parents bring babies and pre-schoolers along to sing songs – some secular, some with a Christian message – and be introduced to the church environment and part of their local community. Amanda has already had the chance to chat with a non-Christian mum who wants to bring her child to church.
But it’s not all about contact with young families. Amanda co-leads her weekly Bible study group with her husband, oversees the Bible study leaders in the church, and is part of the church’s evangelism team, planning ways to contact the local community with the gospel.
She also reads the Bible or Christian books one-on-one with a number of women, including a woman mature in the faith, someone who has come to faith more recently, and even two women who are not Christians. And the story of how that came about is a great illustration of the ministry opportunities that MTS apprenticeships facilitate.
As we’ve seen, Amanda’s on many church teams, but there’s another kind of team she’s on as well: a local mixed futsal (indoor soccer) team. And it’s here that Amanda has found another opportunity to make time to share her faith.
When Amanda told a futsal teammate (and the teammate’s boyfriend) about her plan to commence her MTS apprenticeship, they were curious about what that meant:
They were asking, ‘What are you going to be doing?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m meant to read the Bible with a non-Christian, a young Christian, and a mature Christian.’ And they were basically like, ‘Oh, we can be the non-Christians that you read the Bible with.’
She wasn’t expecting them to volunteer! She wasn’t sure whether they were serious, but when she checked in with her friend a few weeks later, she said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m happy to read the Bible.’ They’ve been reading it together weekly for the four or five weeks since – and her friend wants to keep going.
Amanda wants to find other ways to make time for people like this:
I ended up deciding to invite a whole bunch of [futsal] people to our place for breakfast on Easter Sunday before church… and the girl I’m reading the Bible with from the team said she’ll come.
A similar thing happened with an optometry colleague with whom Amanda had previously offered to read the Bible. She’d previously not taken her up on the offer; but when the apprenticeship was starting and Amanda said, ‘Look, now I’ve got more time. Do you want to read the Bible?’, this time her friend said yes. Now she’s the other non-Christian friend with whom Amanda spends time reading the Bible regularly.
Time to talk, listen and care
Having time to spend with people means Amanda can have deeper conversations with people, and hear them as they grapple with their questions – and sometimes misunderstandings – about Christianity.
At a time in human history when people are struggling with COVID-19 and all that that has meant, Amanda senses that there is a great need for caring and helping ministries.
And when time is allowed for people to think and talk things through, they have time to see how distinctive Christianity is… and often to see how different it is from their preconceived ideas.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the conversations are always easy – they often aren’t. But investing time and genuine, loving interest in people before those conversations come along can make all the difference.
I find it difficult navigating sensitive topics and sharing my thoughts from a Christian perspective that would naturally be contrary to a non-Christian’s perspective, but I’ve found that I’ve been able to handle some of those difficult conversations well if I have an established relationship with that person and have judged it safe to share honestly and in a way that the friend can see that I’m not trying to judge or hurt.
MTS and beyond
Through MTS, Amanda is gaining a huge variety of experience. It’s giving her skills in personal evangelism, leadership and discipling, and sometimes taking her out of her comfort zone into activities like walk-up evangelism. And it’s also giving her a hunger for more training in apologetics so she can respond with knowledge to the difficult and sensitive topics of our times.
It’s too early for Amanda to know where she’s headed in ministry after MTS; but she knows that no matter what kind of ministry God wants her to have, her apprenticeship will have equipped her better to engage in it. She says:
I wanted the skills and I wanted to be able to learn how to do ministry better… And so I don’t know whether it will look like me going back to optometry full-time or perhaps doing ministry part-time and still doing optometry part-time, or dropping optometry altogether… I’ve always felt as Christians, we’re all called to ministry in some form. And so I want to do ministry for life, and even though I don’t quite know what that will look like, I know ministry is going to be there in my life regardless.
Amanda is experiencing first-hand how important it is that people and time are set aside for the work of witnessing and discipling through relationships. And it is MTS that has enabled her to make time to do this – and to develop skills and experience for a lifetime of ministry, wherever God wants to use her.