MTS and AFES: The worst of both worlds

An interesting article:
The Ministry Training Scheme, in its Sydney-Anglican incarnation, and
its clones, generally looks like this: take a mature Christian with some
experience in voluntary ministry, put them into a 1-2 year, often
full-time, ministry position, give them on-the-job training and
mentorship, and pay them a fairly sub-standard wage.

Sounds a lot like an apprenticeship, really. But it's not, and ex-MTS
apprentices have nothing formal to show for what they've been through.
Furthermore, MTS is often used as a pre-Theological Education scheme.
So, you do your MTS, then you go on to a Theological College of some

So: unlike an apprenticeship you get no qualification, and no
compensation for the hard work and low wages you undertake. And to
continue to work in full-time ministry, the expectation is that you will
then go and take full-time study to qualify for that.

Fundamentally my problem revolves around this: MTS takes people at a
time of life when they generally need to be saving towards paying for a
theological education, and puts them in a situation where they will
struggle to make ends meet, with little in the way of other


Stan and Clare said...

Hi. I read your post on the original blog that this article came from.

I'm currently finishing off my MTS apprenticeship this year and I'm hoping to go to College next year (God willing).

I've loved every minute of MTS. My trainers have really focused on protecting and looking after us rather than just running us to the ground.

I just wanted to say that I'm real sorry that your MTS experience has made you bitter towards it. I'm sorry. I feel for you.

But in regards to the article, I think I do have something to show for my MTS apprenticeship. I think I'm a far better husband than I was when I started MTS. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I think I'm on my way. So it may not necessarily be a piece of paper that gives you a qualification, but it helps you in what it means to be godly (for me anyway).

Also, it depends on where you train. At some training centres, they will let you go to Youthworks College while you are doing MTS for a day or two (if you are doing Youth specific ministry). Some training centres are just flogging centres unfortunately. I've worked hard at my training centre, but they have looked after me by sitting down and training us in all things, and letting us do them, while also protecting us as well. (Sorry, probably the wrong place to put this answer).

CraigS said...

Neil, I read your comment on the link. I can't help but think that after 12 years you really need to get over your bitterness and annoyance at what happened during your MTS years. You are just hurting yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hi Craig,
I guess on Neil's behalf there's a difference between forgiving a past action and condoning or enabling something to continue.

The fact that Neil mentions he is still bitter is a concern, but maybe the overall motivation is to share how hard it has been to see 2 years of his life just thrown in the trash can by those "in charge". I use that term loosely because it really sounds like they did not brief him properly. He had no idea that there was anything wrong, and suddenly around the 18 month mark without any warning they just said "No, you're not cut out for it!" (But still of course wanted him to finish all the jobs they had allocated him for the year!)

I think at that point Neil said, "Yeah thanks but no thanks" and started looking for a job to fund his 2 year SMBC course off his own bat. Credit should be given Neil for not just walking out of church altogether.

So maybe you underestimate the concern Neil might have that this program not continue to misuse people. I don't think you have the right to spank Neil online about this Craig. Have you done MTS? I have, and echo some (but not all) of the concerns in that article, and I had a relatively GOOD experience of MTS and hold no grudges against any individuals. Some of this stuff is just systemic, especially in churches that are new to running it.

There are some MTS places that are very new to running the scheme and might have some teething problems. One place I know of "employed" their MTS worker rather than "training" them. The church liked the deal so much they offered to "employ" them permanently in that situation!


My own personal experience of MTS was fairly positive, however financial pressure after 1 year and various other life factors prevented Joy and I going on to Moore.

MTS could have a more unified "curriculum", or at least a set of expectations that are spelled out more clearly. I know it's not meant to be a theology degree, but what you end up doing on a day to day basis seems so dependent on the whims of your "boss" who is themselves a stressed and busy minister ... and maybe not as thoroughly trained in having a "young apprentice" as the scheme seems to rely on.

On the other hand, many theology students report that MTS workers seem to understand where certain aspects of the theology will fit in to practice far better than their newish non-MTS peers. Yet is that worth 2 years of your life in a funny limbo land where one's performance can be misunderstood as not appropriate for ministry when maybe further INTENSE TRAINING would have sorted those issues?

Isn't it a bit like evaluating someone's job performance BEFORE they have been trained in that job?

Just thinking out loud....

One Salient Oversight said...


I'm not going to pretend that your divorce experience still hurts you and that you need to keep dealing with it.

My MTS experience is still annoying - not because of what happened during it (I had a great time ministering to people) but the fact that it has closed doors for me that should've been open.

In recent years I've tried to get back into ministry, convinced that I'd been hard done by... only for the doors to be shut again by a different set of people who point blank refused to tell me why they refused me. I can't help thinking that my "failed MTS" experience somehow coloured their thinking.

Christians are the people who hurt other Christians the most. I appreciate your comments about bitterness but, to be frank, you're essentially throwing more guilt my way when I don't need it or deserve it. Blaming the victim it is called.

I link to the Sydney Anglicans website from my blog and I comment at the threads there. My experience of being a Sydney Anglican has been both positive and negative, which is why I still call myself one.

I just want to tell the truth. Besides, there are many former MTSers out there who didn't "cut it" either and need to tell of their experiences.

CraigS said...

Neil, regarding ministry doors being shut, consider this. It's very possible that the hurt and resentment you feel toward your MTS trainers still comes out when you are being interviewed. It's very hard to hide these things.

If you are able to heal from this experience, let go of the bitterness, forgive those who may have wronged you, you may find that doors open up.

Gordon Cheng said...

Unfortunately one of the down sides of the internet is that it allows the publication of certain assertions that those who may be able to refute will, for various reasons, choose not to. In Neil's case I am aware from a number of independent sources that there is a fuller story to be told than the one being put here. In my own view, however (and speaking as a former MTSer and one who has on a number of occasions been asked to leave certain ministry jobs—all matters of public record) I don't believe there is any constructive purpose in pursuing matters in this way, and in this forum.

As well as my previous reference to 1 Timothy 5:19, I would add the following:

1. The injustice of using a blog to target identifiable individuals who, in some cases, have not even aware of any current grievance and are in any case, for good reason, choosing not to defend themselves.

2. The psychological consequences of holding on to bitterness. I have been where you have been, more than once (including an eight month period of unemployment which began with the birth of one of our children) and there is no value whatsoever in holding even justified grudges. Unfortunately, it is only too clear that you do hold such a grudge—and in saying this I make no comment whatsoever on whether it is justified or not.

3. The least important argument: pragmatically speaking, don't potential employers Google their potential employees these days? Entries such as your blog posts on these subjects may well give them pause for thought. TBH you come across as bitter and disgruntled and (as they say) I have no real dog in this fight.

I have only met you once and you seem like a nice enough guy to me, so I can't offer any comment on whether the judgement of others in your case was corrrect. But the tone of your posting on this subject would concern me if I was thinking of you as a potential employee (in ministry or otherwise).

4.The most important point: The Bible uses the example of Jesus (and many other things) to argue that it is often (note I don't say always) best to suffer unjust treatment silently. Check 1 Peter 1:21-22. I think it applies here. Believe me when I say that I'm not speaking from an academic ivory tower on this subject.

I will be happy to pursue this in one-to-one conversation with you, either in person or by e-mail. I am only writing this publicly because you've chosen to pursue the matter publicly. As you know I am rather hardheaded and will continue to take the matter on if you continue to raise it publicly. But I don't want to! So can I urge you to pull back on this one and follow the matter up privately—if not with me, then with the people you believe have wronged you.

Be assured of my prayers.


Gordon Cheng said...

The Bible uses the example of Jesus (and many other things) to argue that it is often (note I don't say always) best to suffer unjust treatment silently.

Ohh, and once again I make no comment whatsoever on whether your treatment has, in fact, been unjust. I am not aware of the full facts of your situation, except (as I have mentioned) that there is a fuller story to be told.

One Salient Oversight said...

Gordo, you're very good at Eisegesis.

Gordon Cheng said...

1 Peter 1:21-22

Sorry for the triple post. I meant 1 Peter 2:21-22.

Gordon Cheng said...

Gordo, you're very good at Eisegesis.

If you mean that I am reading in a bitter tone into your posts, then perhaps we can agree to disagree.

If you mean my use of Scripture, we can talk about that.

One Salient Oversight said...

Whoah! Sorry about that Gordo. I was talking about you reading into my posts, not your understanding of the Bible.

I should've made that clear. Sorry again!

Gordon Cheng said...

No worries. No offence taken, and none intended either I should say. I'll leave psychoanalysis to people who know what they're talking about.