Book Review: Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton: A Handbook for Ministry Apprenticeship

Title Passing the Baton: A Handbook for Ministry Apprenticeship
Author Colin Marshall
Pages 120
Publisher Matthias Media
Year 2006
ISBN 978 1 921068 79 9
Purchase Matthias Media or Moore Books

There are times when you are so familiar with something that it almost becomes second nature to you. Then when you try to explain it to someone else you end up being frustrated because it’s so obvious to you, but the other person doesn’t understand it.

It’s sort of like this with this book. It introduces the concept of “ministry apprenticeship”—a trainer taking on a full-time apprentice for an extended period of time for the purposes of training the apprentice, usually with the aim of the apprentice moving towards full-time ministry. It describes one particular implementation of this approach in the form of the Ministry Training Strategy, which Marshall headed for some 27 years.

After introducing the concept, the book is then divided into sections for potential apprentices, potential trainees and potential “strategists” (my word) for setting up and running an apprenticeship programme. Helpful and practical tips are provided for all stakeholders to make the programme work, such as clarifying expectations of the apprenticeship programme, what to teach and how the apprenticeship is to be evaluated. I particularly like this one, in the context of eating together.

It’s important [for the apprentice] to know how to prepare food, how to organize others to prepare food, or where you can buy a cheap hamburger to eat with a friend. Page 38

For me, having been the beneficiary of many prior apprentices and having some familiarity with MTS, the book leaves me with two thoughts.

  • It’s obvious! Those who are familiar with how ministry appreneticeship works will find almost everything explained in the book “inherently obvious”. Don’t expect to learn anything new. The value of the book is for those who are foreign to the concept and are passionate in setting a programme up in their own contexts to help the next generation of gospel workers.

  • There’s so much more! The book is 120 pages long (page size marginally larger than A5), including appendices. From memory (a number of years ago), the MTS Manual is set in A4 with at least twice the number of pages. The book does not (and is not meant to) go into the details of particular “exercises” that apprentices may undertake as part of their programme. I see the book as trying to set out the framework for a programme, with the details being filled by other resources.

This book is a good start for those, in whatever context, who are interested in training others to take the gospel forward, whether by setting up an apprenticeship programme, or something less ambitious. But remember, it’s just a start.

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