At Regent’s Park, we aim to form thoughtful, mission-oriented ministers, ready to respond to the challenges of church and kingdom in the 21st century. Learning and formation in ministry is of course a lifetime’s work but initial ministerial formation in the Baptist Union takes approximately six years. The college course usually accounts for the first three years of this process; establishing patterns for personal and professional development, which continue when a student becomes a Newly Accredited Minister (more below) and beyond. Our ministerial students follow a course of theological study chosen in light of their experience and qualifications, ranging from diploma to doctoral level, which is combined with additional training in pastoral and mission studies, and a range of placement opportunities.
Ministerial formation usually follows one of two basic patterns:
(1) CONGREGATION-BASED FORMATION, where students prepare for ministry from a local church base; this is the pattern followed by the majority of students. Regent’s has been developing this pattern of formation for more than 25 years, building a number of strong partnerships between the College and the churches, which share an understanding that formation takes place in both contexts. Typically students take up ministerial duties in a church within a two-hour commute to Oxford – some much closer, some even further away. Students come into College on Tuesdays during term time, 27 weeks each year, and for four block weeks when students are accommodated on site. Block weeks provide ministerial students with vital opportunities for intensive periods of study, and for deepening relationships with other students and staff. In pastorate, the Minister-in-Training is regarded as the minister (sole or joint) in their church and carries out the full range of ministerial tasks. They will usually be paid a half stipend and expenses, and often live in the manse. Sometimes, if circumstances make this preferable, they may commute to the church from their home. Regent’s offers a range of support to students on this pattern, including frequent visits from tutors to their pastorate. As part of their overall preparation, congregation-based students take a Diploma in Theological Studies or a BTh (both part of the BTh suite of courses), an MTh in Applied Theology, or another suitable course.
(2) COLLEGE-BASED FORMATION, where students follow a full-time university course alongside placement work. These students usually study the BTh or the MTh, or another appropriate course. College-based students generally move to Oxford (with their families, where appropriate) or commute from a sensible distance on a weekly basis (generally spending three or four days each week in Oxford). Being in Oxford allows them to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by being part of a college community – social, sporting, and cultural! The College has some accommodation and can offer advice to students who wish to make their own arrangements. College-based students have a placement in a local church during their first two years, working alongside a minister, and then they work on a hospital Chaplaincy placement in their third year, to broaden their experience of ministry.
Within these two patterns students develop one of two emphases:
(1) PASTORAL MINISTRY is traditional ordained ministry. We refer to this as pastoral ministry, both because being called to be a ‘pastor’ is a long-established description of ministry among Baptists and because the Baptist Union distinguishes between ‘evangelists’ and ‘pastors’, but there is also much in pastoral ministry that is strongly mission-focused. The majority of ministerial students continue to be formed and trained to be pastoral ministers, but they are also equipped to encourage churches into new and creative ways of mission, and all our students think about and engage with those seeking more pioneering ways of being church. Alongside such practical considerations as mission, preaching and church leadership, all ministerial students have time and opportunities to study the Bible and biblical subjects – we ask all students to have a go at New Testament Greek! – and to reflect theologically on their experience of church and ministry. Our aim is that students will be able to think biblically and theologically about the variety of issues relating to the church and the world.
(2) PIONEER MINISTRY recognises that in our current culture there is a need for the Church to develop in new ways, in church planting and alternative expressions. Those preparing within this track also need a range of academic skills and understanding, but their formation will have a pioneering edge. At Regent’s, we are able to offer a pathway for those called to a pioneering ministry as ordained ‘evangelists’. We have, for example, a partnership with the Pioneer Mission Leadership Training run by CMS (Church Mission Society) in Oxford, overseen by Jonny Baker, and we arrange regular visits from those involved in pioneering work in Baptist churches. Appropriate placements will be carefully planned to enable students to develop the skills they need as evangelists.
It is possible to follow a calling to pastoral ministry or to be a pioneer evangelist on both college-based and congregation-based patterns. It is also possible to pursue either pattern on a part-time or bi-vocational basis, where time at college, private study and placement experience can be combined with other part-time paid employment or with other responsibilities, such as child-care. To learn more about ministerial formation at Regent’s, watch our promotional video, which includes interviews with ministers trained in College and members of the Pastoral Team:
Whichever path they take, our ministerial students do a great deal together and their different experiences enrich one another’s development. Each term, students work in small groups for presentations by staff, discussion, and practical work; these sessions are highly interactive. There are also frequent opportunities to reflect on the practice of ministry in placements, and for students to support one another and to pray together. Ministerial students are also members of the Middle Common Room, where they interact with postgraduate and mature students pursuing academic programmes across the University. Oxford is a great place to prepare for ministry: it is a stimulating environment for those with high academic aspirations, but it is also one in which those with modest academic achievements can find lots of support, learn in small groups, and flourish.
NEWLY ACCREDITED MINISTERS of the Baptist Union of Great Britain may apply to have their Learning Contracts with us. The programme for newly accredited ministers is centred on our REPAST conferences, which take place annually in January and September. There are more details on Learning Contracts in these documents: Learning Contract Information; Learning Contract Financial Arrangements. Ministers may also come to Regent’s for all or part of their sabbatical leave and opportunities for further study are available via the BTh and MTh suites, leading to degrees, diplomas and certificates.
If you have questions regarding any of the information on this page, please contact one of the following members of staff who will be happy to assist:
General Enquiries and BTh Suite:
The Revd Anthony Clarke – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Revd Dr Nicholas Wood – email@example.com
Chaplaincy at Regent’s Park:
The Revd Dr Myra Blyth – firstname.lastname@example.org
Further information may also be found on the Chaplaincy website.