Preparing for ordained ministry is a challenging experience. It involves education (including academic study), training (including learning the practical skills needed) and ministerial formation. We think formation is primarily something that you allow God to do. We can make space for it to happen, but it’s God who has to do the work. We find it takes time, prayer, and a safe space to explore what being shaped for ministry means for you. We can help – and we do so through the academic teaching, worship, prayer and community life – but ultimately it needs you to be ready to be shaped and formed by God.
At Queen’s we recognise that Christian ministers today lead and serve diverse congregations, in the midst of communities with increasing cultural and religious diversity. That’s why it’s vital to be able to hold our own belief and practice with total integrity, while exhibiting God’s grace and generosity in our relationships inside and outside the church. The Centre for Ministerial Formation is the place to learn how. We form ministers for work in the real church, with all its complexity and messiness, by shaping students who are not afraid to ask difficult questions or be challenged about their own assumptions.
A global perspective for contextual ministry
The Queen’s community draws members from five continents and sits in the middle of an extraordinarily diverse city. We see global diversity as a key formational feature, helping you to see the big picture of what God is doing in the world beyond our doorstep. Only when we can step outside our own context can we see it with fresh perspective, and those from other parts of the world help us to do that.
We also encourage ministerial students to use our international connections to enhance their training, with opportunities for short-term exchanges and other international visits.
A passion for holistic mission
At Queen’s we see mission as God’s business, and we encourage students to get involved in that mission in its broadest form – not just welcoming and nurturing new believers, but also bringing God’s reign nearer by challenging the unjust structures of our world. We provide encouragement and opportunity for ministerial students to develop as leaders in prophetic mission, unafraid to challenge the powerful and to speak and act for the kingdom.
An expertise in interfaith dialogue
Queen’s has unrivalled expertise in and resources for interfaith engagement. Two tutors are specialists in this field and their knowledge and first hand engagement with other faith communities in Birmingham mean that you will not just gain a critical appreciation of Christian approaches to religious plurality in theology, biblical interpretation and spiritual practice, but you will have significant experiences of other faith traditions, exploring the impact of this upon your own Christian self-understanding.
What forms of training are on offer?
Queen’s offers training in two main ‘modes’:
- ‘College-style’ (Track 1) weekday training known as the Queen’s Daytime Course (QDC). Students can be resident on-site; live nearby and commute each day; or live further away and commute weekly (being present at Queen’s Monday-Thursday). Most Track 1 students are full-time, but for some students there may be an option to stretch your training over an extra year and be part-time. Most Track 1 students study for 2 or 3 years.
- ‘Course-style’ (Track 2) is part-time training known to Anglicans as the Queen’s Regional Course (QRC) and to Methodists as the Queen’s Connexional Course (QCC).
Learning is not something that happens only in our heads or only in the classroom. At Queen’s we put a lot of effort into producing excellent academic programmes, but we recognise that true learning is only partly about the academic credits. Learning is letting ourselves be shaped and changed by the new perspectives which we gain from listening to and talking with those who see things differently. It is ultimately about making ourselves available to God.
We see learning as part of the formation for ministry which only God can do. Our job is to create a safe and open environment in which it can happen, where you are free to try out new ideas and get the chance to challenge others as well as to learn from them. At Queen’s learning takes place in three particular contexts: in teaching, in assignments and in ministerial practice.
Academic modules are delivered via lectures, seminars and small groups, through visits and placements, in classrooms and online. Writing assignments and receiving feedback are also part of the learning process. Queen’s offers a study skills programme and other learning support resources tailored to individual student needs.
Module cohorts are diverse, and include ministerial candidates, trainee Readers in the Church of England and independent lay students. Discussion between different views and traditions is encouraged, as is making connections between academic studies, ministerial formation and practice.
The opportunity to learn from others and to subject one’s own assumptions and beliefs to critical scrutiny is a precious gift. Some classes are large but tutors will ensure that opportunity for participation and interaction is maximised.
Assignments and their assessment is a key part of learning and formation, not just a hurdle to jump at the end of a module. Being able to gather evidence, develop reasoned arguments, engage openly and critically with other voices in a debate, communicate, explain and defend your own views, and so on are all skills that are central to ministry.
In most modules there will be a range of assignments and in some there will be forms that explicitly ask you to engage in reflection on your personal, spiritual, ministerial formation. Tutors will give careful feedback on your written work – we are commended by external examiners about the quality of this – so allow this part of the programme to be a formative part of your learning and development.
Ministerial practice is developed in two contexts.
Students are based in a local link church for the duration of training. Students engage with the life of the church in worship and service, giving several hours commitment per week, as agreed in discussion with the local minister and formalised in the Link Church Agreement. Students are expected to lead worship and preach, receiving feedback from ministers and congregation members to contribute to a Worship Portfolio which is built up over the course of initial ministerial formation.
In the summer term of the first year, students complete a church-based placement (which may be a fresh expression church community). Placement learning agreements are agreed at the beginning of the placement between student and placement supervisor. The supervisor’s report is discussed with student and personal tutor, and a positive report is necessary for progression.
What will I get at the end of my training?
Above all, our intention is that by the end of your training you are ready to make the shift from being a ‘private’ Christian to being a permanent public representative of God and the Church. Most ministerial students will also get an academic qualification. Most of our courses for ministerial formation are drawn from the Common Awards suite, validated by Durham University. Most students leave with a Diploma in Theology, Ministry and Mission, though some (for instance, with longer to study, or with prior theological qualifications) can study for a BA or MA. Some of our students, with the agreement of their sponsoring churches, are studying for research degrees, such as PhDs.
All students in the Centre for Ministerial Formation, whatever their academic programme, will be working within the formational frameworks set by their sponsoring Churches:
- For Anglican ordinands this means the formation framework used by the Church of England for priests and distinctive deacons.
- For Methodist student presbyters and student deacons this means the competencies expected by the Methodist Church at the point of stationing as probationers – see pp. 47-51 in the Handbook for Ministerial Probation.