On Saturday I went back to school.
It still feels strange to say that – to be honest, when I graduated from college two years ago, I relished the thought that I would never have to turn in another assignment to a teacher. I had no desire for a master’s or any other further education. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read and write. I’ve always been a good student without too much effort, and I enjoyed class discussions and taking notes from lectures. Nevertheless, there was something so freeing about receiving my diploma and knowing that I had completed all the formal education I needed for my career of choice.
When Caleb resigned from his position as Children’s Minister in May so that he could pursue full-time training to plant a church, we knew that part of the plan meant studying under the Porterbrook Network. Based in the UK, the Porterbrook Network is a two-year program that allows individuals and churches to learn how to serve and live missionally, particularly in the context of planting churches. It covers much of the same material that would be taught at seminary but in a more accessible, affordable, and contextual manner. You don’t need to have any prior degrees, you don’t have to remove yourself from your current community, and it’s a minimal cost ($180/year, with spouses receiving a 50% discout).
A number of people at our church will be going through the program, so I’ve heard more and more about Porterbrook as we got closer to the launch date. Initially, they thought they would be connecting for the residential days with churches in Georgia. However, as more and more churches got involved, the network grew so that our church is now part of the Porterbrook: Florida learning site, joining with churches in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Daytona, and Orlando. That part is important, because while I was excited about the program and looking forward to reading along with what Caleb was learning, I didn’t think I could take off from work to travel to Georgia for the residential days (where you gather with your network to share what has been learned and present your assignments).
So, when I found out that the residential days would be on Saturdays AND they would be only 45 minutes from where we live, I knew I would be doing the program as well. Planting a church is something that Caleb and both have a passion and a calling to do, and I’m really excited to dive into studying the Bible, theology, and real-world gospel living. It will mean being busier, studying and doing lots of reading, but I know that it’s going to prepare me in so many ways, no matter where we end up in the next few years.
Here are the basics, if it sounds like something you might be interested in:
How does it work?
The course is delivered through distance learning with an introductory day and 3 residential Saturdays throughout the year. It will require about 5 hours study each week. The full course is over two years, comprising a foundation year and advanced year.
It’s pretty simple: each year consists of four core courses divided into three nine-week periods. During these nine weeks you are responsible for completing the weekly reading and assignments and for meeting weekly with your study group to process what you are learning. At the end of the nine weeks everyone enrolled comes together for an all-day workshop of teaching and discussion. All the materials will be distributed in PDF format so there are no additional costs for books, just for printing copies.
How did it start?
It was created by Steve Timmis & Tim Chester of The Crowded House, co-authors of the book Total Church. They saw an increasing desire in their people for further gospel and missional training, but realized how difficult it was for them to leave their town, family and career to pursue an official seminary degree. They began the Northern Training Institute, then started the Porterbrook Network to expand the curriculum across the globe.
Who is it for?
Men and women who want to serve the Church and engage the world with the Gospel, specifically anyone in or interested in leadership roles in the Church. Leadership roles are not only pastors and elders but sunday school teachers, deacons, worship team members, mentors, small-group leaders, youth workers, people in childrens ministry – really anyone who seeks to serve the Church and further the Gospel. All you have to have is a desire for learning, a commitment to the Church (capital ‘C’), and the self-motivation to study.
Check out the Porterbrook website for more information. There’s still time to sign up for this year’s classes! And yes, it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to get some new school supplies.