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Investing in Labourers

Six years ago the leadership team at Above Bar Church began a partnership with Living Leadership to train gospel workers. This ministry has now developed into something called Formation School and we asked Paul Allcock to introduce us to it.

Investing in Labourers primary image

As I reflect back on those early discussions, it is amazing to consider what God has done in addressing our need to equip labourers for His kingdom.

We started out with a curriculum for a one-year training programme, designed to train and equip leaders and potential leaders for ministry within the church. Training Leaders who Make Disciples became the strapline of what is now Formation School.

Formation School logoThe core vision has now been sharpened and shaped as we have grown in our understanding of the impact of a programme like this. We want to offer a balanced approach by addressing the individual’s personal walk with God (the Soul Room) while inspiring and equipping students with the passion and skills to disciple others effectively (the Leadership Room).

Developing the Curriculum

For four years the course took place over 30 Tuesdays, for eight hours, and was greatly appreciated by a wide range of people from church trainees to retired followers of Jesus.

Students included church ministers and leaders as well as a significant number of younger working people who were able to work flexibly to give time for the course. Marcus Honeysett from Living Leadership served as the director for the first four years.

Chatting at Formation School

When I returned from two years in Uganda, I was asked to take on the role of director with much support from Marcus and Thompy Wright of the Navigators, both of whom serve as co-directors. We set about reorganising and reformatting the course to make it more accessible to a wider range of people with working and family responsibilities.

Formation School now runs for four hours on 36 Tuesday evenings and there are six Saturdays which are also integral to the course.

This year, we have had the privilege of seeing God at work in the lives of the 26 students who have taken part. These students come from six different local churches, six nationalities and a wide range of ages – both physical and spiritual! It has been a huge blessing to witness the way in which they have grown over the year and to sense their confidence in God to use them in the future.

Listening at Formation School

Each Tuesday evening I am energised and encouraged by the commitment and enthusiasm shown by the students many of whom come directly from work to study with us. I am challenged by the way in which they engage with the material and also by the strong and caring relationships which have grown between them.

The Studies

The material is organised into five tracks each with a track leader, and we also divide into ‘huddles’: small accountability groups which have proved invaluable in the development of deep, supportive relationships. The five tracks are:

  1. The mission of God
  2. Experiencing the blessing of God
  3. Leading in communities of mission
  4. Growing disciple-making disciples
  5. The gospel in today’s world

What do past students say about the experience? Here are a few quotes to give you a flavour:

Anna: “I’ve been challenged, encouraged, and equipped for mission. I’ve been taught, loved and inspired by the people I’ve met here. Above all, I’ve been amazed time and again by the depth of God’s love and the reach of His grace.”

Martin: “It gave me an expanded view of the gospel and a fuller sense of my identity in Christ.”

Leila: “It has brought the Bible to life for me in a way I never imagined. The great teaching has equipped me to feel confident in leading others, and has taught me new things about myself. What a fantastic year this will be to look back on.”

You can find out a lot more on the Formation School website. We would also be happy for you to visit and see what it’s like in practice.

So my question/challenge to those of you who lament the lack of effective trained leaders in your churches is: Could you do something similar? Perhaps you could partner on something like this with other like-minded churches?

It is a lot of work but I believe it is one of the most worthwhile investments we can make for the future as we equip workers for the harvest field.

Paul Allcock photo
Paul Allcock

Paul is the director of Formation School, Southampton. He spent many years teaching science before being appointed to the staff of Above Bar Church in 1999. He retired from his role as one of the ministers in 2013 and, with his wife Di, then spent two years in Uganda, with Africa Inland Mission, training church leaders and discipling individuals.