Frequently Asked Questions

Associate FAQ

We begin interviewing for next September's intake from November

1. Who should apply to the Associate Scheme?
i. What kind of people do you look for?
ii. What if I have done a 9:38 apprenticeship already?
iii. What if I’m not sure I want to be in paid Christian work?
iv. What if I am sure paid Christian work is for me? Shouldn’t I just go to Bible college?
v. Am I too old to do the Associate Scheme?

2. Finances and Accommodation
i. How much does the Associate Scheme cost?
ii. Will I receive help in raising funds?
iii. Do you provide accomodation?

3. How do you decide where to train for gospel ministry?

4. The Second year
i. Why do you have a second year to the Scheme?
ii. Do I have to commit to two years of the Scheme?

5. Practical work
i. What practical work do Associates do?
ii. Why is practical work an important part of the training?

6. How does the scheme compare with other 9:38 apprenticeships?
i. Our distinctive strengths
ii. Our particular weaknesses

7. What do Associates do after they finish?

Still got questions?

1. Finances and Accommodation

i. How much does the Associate Scheme cost?
There are no fees for our scheme. However, we estimate that the total cost of accommodation and living expenses, is £8,000 per year for a single Associate. Married couples need to budget for more like £20,000 together, whilst a married couple with 2 young children would need to budget in the region of £28,000. We encourage Associates to raise as much as possible of this, and we give them as much help with collecting support as we can (see below).
As it takes quite a bit of time to raise funds, we recommend applying and starting to raise support as soon as possible. Having applied to family, friends and any charitable trusts, Associates can then apply to the St Helen’s PCC to cover any shortfall in subsistence funds and/or for accommodation.
We do of course realise that some Associates can raise more than others and we certainly wouldn’t want money to stop you applying.

ii. Will I receive help in raising funds?
Yes, on being accepted on to the scheme, Associates are sent information including a form to help them budget, sample letters for writing to family and friends, and information about applying to charitable trusts.
Associates are also advised as to how to partner with both your supporters and with Stewardship Services, who, through reclaiming the tax paid by supporters, will in most cases add an additional 25%.
Finally Associates can also apply to the St Helen’s PCC for a grant to cover any shortfall in their fundraising. If there is a need (eg particularly for new graduates), the PCC is able to provide accommodation to Associates free of charge.

iii. Do you provide accomodation?
Both accomodation and grants are provided on a first come first served basis, but we can usually provide housing for all single associates in our shared associate houses. We do not have married accomodation available, but can sometimes put incoming associates in touch with private landlords through the church family who may be able to provide good value housing.

2. Who should apply for the Associate Scheme?

i. What kind of people do you look for?
All sorts of people make good Bible teachers. Qualities we are looking for are:
a. Gospel hearted men and women who want to serve God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
b. People committed to the Bible as God’s word, believing it to be our supreme authority and eager to know how to study and teach it better. The Associate Scheme is intellectually demanding, so we look for those who want to think hard about what God is saying.
c. People willing to serve and take on a variety of responsibilities and tasks around the church
d. Those with the Christian maturity and gifts to teach the Bible in groups and one-to-one
e. Those willing to be team players. The Associate Scheme is hard work and requires people to serve the other Associates, wider staff team and church family wholeheartedly.
f. All kinds of people from new graduates to men and women who have worked for a number of years, including those who have already done 9:38 apprenticeships/Relay etc. Those with more experience are given more responsibility and more training.

ii. What if I have done an apprenticeship already?
If you have done an apprenticeship already then you are just the kind of person we are looking for, because you will already have a certain amount of Bible studying and teaching experience. The more experience an Associate has of handling the Bible initially, the more they will benefit from the scheme.
If you have the gifts and godliness to be a Bible teacher but not yet much experience, then the Student Ministry Apprenticeship may be more appropriate.

iii. What if I’m not sure I want to be in paid Christian work?
If you are not sure whether this is the best way for you to serve God, it is a great way to try it out and see what it's like without taking a big career break.
Even if you end up not going in to full time Bible teaching, the Associate Scheme provides a great opportunity to serve God’s church in the short-term and training to be better equipped to serve the gospel in the longterm. It will also help you grow hugely as a Christian
That said, the focus is training people for full-time Bible teaching ministry in all its varied forms, eg running a church, student ministry, women’s ministry, youth ministry, cross-cultural ministry. So for anyone seriously considering full-time Bible teaching ministry the Scheme provides training that is hard to acquire in other settings.
For example, it provides experience of seriously working through books of the Bible learning how to study them for yourself and how to teach them to others. Most other settings tend to focus on one or the other, but not both at the same time. Discover our training ethos here.

ii. What if I am sure paid Christian work is for me? Shouldn’t I just go to bible college?
Once you have made the decision to go into full-time Bible teaching, it’s very tempting to head straight to theological college or the ministry area your heart is set on.
However, for most people probably the best thing to do first is an apprenticeship like the Associate Scheme, because it provides things that college can’t:

  • Hands on experience of real life Bible teaching ministry, which is often lacking in college.
  • Basic training in how to study the bible for yourself (crucial to ministry that glorifies God)
  • Preparation to make the most of college: good theological training can provide great answers, buts it’s real life ministry that helps you understand what questions to ask, and why they matter in real life.

There are many ways to get this basic training, but a scheme like the Associate Scheme that has a very significant element of training and mentoring built into it is one of the best. With us you get both the training and the hands on experience at the same time. Discover our training ethos.

iv. Am I too old to do the Associate Scheme?
The Associate Scheme is ideal for older men and women who already have some experience of ministry, unlike other apprenticeships that are more suitable for new graduates only. We do have some new graduates on the Scheme, but the age range of Associates has been from 21-42yrs.

3. How do you decide where to train for gospel ministry?
Given the number of alternatives options now available for apprenticeships and training, the decision of where to go can seem bewildering. As a general rule, any 9:38 apprenticeship is an excellent way to test the water for full time ministry, but the style of training and range of ministry offered vary greatly. That means it is well worth asking what will best suit the person God has made you, making the most of your God-given gifts for a lifetime of ministry. Here are three choices to consider:

My local church vs moving elsewhere: there are great advantages in staying at your own church (if they have an apprenticeship set up). Existing relationships mean you can hit the ground running, not needing time to settle into a new church family. Your own pastor, if they know you well, may also be best placed to give you feedback and help to grow from day one. Either way, talking to your church leader is certainly the right first step when considering full-time ministry.

The advantages of moving elsewhere are that you may be able to try ministry focused in an area you particularly want to grow in; a larger scheme may be able to provide more training, or of higher quality; and learning to adjust to a different church environment can be a great opportunity to grow, as well as a necessary skill for future ministry. Given all that, at St Helen's we aim to fill half of our places each year with those inside the church family, and half from outside.

In-house vs centralized teaching: centralized training schemes (whether an established course like Cornhill, or less formal apprentices' training run by a group of local churches) have the advantage of being higher quality, by pooling resources and having dedicated teachers.

That said, in-house training benefits from being very closely tied to the ministry of the local church, and offers more chances for interaction and follow up during the week, maximizing the integration between study and service, theology and ministry. At St Helen's we are privileged to enjoy the best of both worlds, basing almost all of our training in house, but with two experienced staff members dedicated full-time to teaching the Associates. The St Helen's church family is deeply committed to God's word being taught well, and their generous commitment enables us to train to a high standard within a local church context.

Church-based vs parachurch: for a number of students, a year with Relay, Crosslinks, Latinlink or another mission organization is a real possibility. Relay in particular can be a great opportunity to carry on university-based evangelism in a familiar context.

The downside of an apprenticeship based in a parachurch organization is simply the lack of seeing behind the scenes of a local church, and doing ministry in that God-given context. The church is God's master plan for the universe (Ephesians 3:10), and his strategy for the truth being upheld in the world (1 Timothy 3:14-16), so church-based apprenticeships have a real advantage. That said, at St Helen's a number of our ex-Associates did Relay first, before coming onto the Scheme, and a number go on to work with UCCF or mission agencies. Again, it will depend on the person with the particular gifts and opportunities God has given at this stage, which is something we discuss with applicants at interview.

4. The Second Year
i. Why do you have a second year to the Scheme?
The second year of the Scheme builds on the first, grounding the lessons learnt in the first year, training Associates further and developing their ministry opportunities.
In general, we think that everyone planning to go into full-time Bible teaching needs the extra training and ministry experience provided in year two. So it’s our normal recommendation that people who appear in year one to be suitable and keen for full-time Bible teaching should stay on for the second.
For those who are probably not going into full-time Bible teaching, it may still be right to stay to serve and to benefit from the extra training, but there are also good reasons not to take too long a break from the secular workplace.
Every individual differs and so we aim, just after Christmas in the first year, to discuss with every Associate whether both we and they think staying on would be the right thing.

ii. Do I have to commit to two years of the Scheme?
No. Staying on is entirely optional and will be discussed during the scheme.
That said, in the past the vast majority of Associates have stayed on for a second year.

5. Practical work
i. What practical work do Associates do?
On average first year Associates spend 4 to 6 hours every week preparing the buildings for meetings (which involves moving furniture and cleaning), operating the PA system, etc. As well as serving, it is also a valuable opportunity to learn what's needed behind the scenes in gospel ministry. Second years may take on more administrative roles, such as supporting the running of a Bible study group evening.

ii. Why is practical work an important part of the training?
The practical work helps the Associates in three main ways:

  • Associates learn what is involved in running a church and enabling Christian ministry to happen. It is easy to get the wrong impression of Christian ministry and think it is all glamorous, upfront work. However, there is a lot of behind the scenes work involved in all Christian ministry and it is important for anyone going into Christian leadership to learn what is involved.
  • Practical service develops a servant heart. Christian service is just that, service, and again it is vital that everyone seeking to serve God develops the attitude of looking for what needs doing and getting on with it, even if it is a humble, dirty, unseen job.
  • It teaches Associates to work as part of a team. Christian ministry should never be a one man show, so learning to function well in a team is an important part of an Associate’s training. Previous Associates have also found that they thoroughly enjoyed the practical work as it is an opportunity to enjoy banter/relax a bit and to discuss together what they are learning.

6. How does the Scheme compare to other 9:38 apprenticeships?
i. Our distinctive strengths
Large church, small church, city centre church, urban priority church, suburban church, rural church, Anglican church, free church: different types of church provide different experiences for their apprentices and suit different types of people. There are enormous advantages of being an apprentice at a large city centre church like St Helen’s:

  • God has graciously given us a large ministry among people like students, recent graduates and internationals, and all these are ideal people for apprentices to minister to.
  • In his goodness, God has given us the resources and unity in the gospel which means we can do ministry to a very high standard and with a 100% focus on the thing that matters, the gospel – this means the ministry they will be involved with is an excellent model for apprentices as they learn how to do ministry.
  • God has also graciously given us the resources to be able to invest heavily in training and discipling our apprentices, and if you are thinking of being a full-time Bible teacher for the rest of your life then it is essential to be trained as well as possible so your ministry really does bring glory and praise to God. See our training ethos.

ii. Our particular weaknesses
There are significant disadvantages to being an apprentice in a church like St Helen’s:

  • The size of the church means some people find it intimidating initially – friends are available in plenty, the problem is how to find them among the crowd.
  • The ministry is not always typical of most other churches, so apprentices won’t see as wide a range of ministry and won’t learn what is and is not possible in a more ‘normal’ church.
  • London is an inconvenient and exhausting place to live, with Associates having to commute a mile or two to church and often having to travel across town to meet people.

However, there are two perceived disadvantages about being an apprentice at a church like St Helen’s that are not, in fact, true and need correcting:

  • Many people think that because we have lots of resources there is less need and they would be better used in a less privileged church. We do have great resources, but we also have huge opportunities for the gospel, with many people coming wanting to hear about Jesus and to grow in their knowledge and love of him, and we badly need labourers to work in this harvest field with us or the opportunities will go to waste. We need apprentices at least as much as any other church.
  • Secondly, some people are concerned that because we are an Anglican church we only train people who want to go into ministry in the Church of England. In fact, St Helen’s is not at all typical of most Anglican churches and a large proportion of the congregation (and even the leadership) are more free church than Anglican. It is our great joy that denominational differences are never an issue and that many previous apprentices and staff now work in free churches. We see our task as training servant-leaders who will teach the Bible to God’s church, regardless of which denomination or lack of denomination they profess or where they wish to serve afterwards.

7. What do Associates do after they finish?
Most Associates go straight onto full-time Christian ministry or theological college (about 70% so far). The sorts of ministry they have gone into include church work, UCCF staff work, youth and children’s work, and overseas missionary work.
Other Associates go into secular work, putting the skills they have learnt in to practice as they continue to be involved in leading Bible studies and in work based ministries.
Several of those who have gone into secular work have, after a year or two, then gone on to theological college or full-time Bible teaching ministry (a further 10% so far).

Still got questions?
If your question has not been answered here, please contact us, by email: [email protected], or tel: 020 7283 2231.


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