Introducing the Timothy Partnership
Imagine what can happen when different denominations & Bible colleges work together
Graham Stanton Principal, Youthworks College.
The state of being a partner: "A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterised by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal".
Partnership is mostly a thumbs-up kind of word—as in, “who’s in favour of partnership?” I imagine that a lot of people would say ‘yes, two enthusiastic thumbs up from me’. To be a partner means to not be alone, to be a helper to others and to be helped by others. A partnership provides the opportunity to trust and to be faithful, to share a common vision, to work for a common goal, to pick one another up in the midst of struggles and to celebrate our shared achievements. Understood this way, partnership is an expression of our humanity created in the image of the Trinitarian God.
Yet, partnership is only mostly a thumbs-up word; the opportunity to be committed to a partnership won’t always appeal to everyone. Because though we’re created for partnership, as our flesh turns away from our Creator and turns in upon ourselves we prefer individualism over fellowship, isolation over community.
Sadly, the aloneness and divisions of human sinfulness have had their influence on ministry training as much as in many other areas of Christian life: resulting in the isolation of individual trainees from their church and college communities, the isolation of colleges from churches, and the isolation of one college from another. The Timothy Partnership is a new project in ministry training that is seeking to move beyond these divisions to be better able to equip Christian people for gospel ministry.
It doesn’t take long to realise that there are no Bible Colleges in the Bible—perhaps a slightly disconcerting observation for people like myself who work in such Colleges! This is of course because the only necessary structure for ministry in the New Testament is the local church. The local church, and the fellowship between local churches is the biblical context for ministry and ministry training. Where an institution like a Bible College exists then, its role is clearly to be as a support to the local church and a resource for their ministry of identifying and developing leaders. Yet the creation of Bible Colleges and ministry training centres can encourage local churches to abdicate their responsibility for developing leaders. The result is an isolation of colleges from churches, with a loss of effectiveness in equipping leaders for local ministries.
The isolation of college from church is particularly acute in the rural and remote communities of Australia where being involved face to face in a college at the same time as being involved face to face in local ministry just isn’t physically possible – commuting to Sydney from Ballina, Broken Hill or Brewarrina isn’t a viable daily or even weekly proposition! In these contexts distance learning programs can give leadership development back to the local church, enabling local churches to develop local leaders with all the benefits of the shared resources of a Bible College in easy reach.
The difficulty with distance learning in the past has been an isolation of individual learners from any sense of learning community. As a result we lose the educational benefits of learning with others and the opportunity of personal formation through engaging in community with others. We’re privileged therefore to have access to modern communications technology that can enable distance students to engage with each other, with skilled tutors and experienced practitioners.
Youthworks College has been offering a small selection of the Diploma program online since 2002. In the Timothy Partnership we’re blessed by the opportunity to join forces with our brothers and sisters at Presbyterian Youth (PY) as co-labourers in this ministry. This partnership doesn’t just enable us to share our resources and expertise; it also enables us to express our unity in Christ in ministry contexts where our theological differences are inconsequential.
Youthworks and PY share a vision to see God’s people equipped for ministry: our focus has been on equipping people of any age for ministry with children and young people; PY is charged with equipping young people for any sort of ministry—together in the Timothy Partnership we’re committed to training every Christian, everywhere.
Over the time that we’ve been offering our distance program we’ve learnt how we can best make use of the technologies available to the online classroom. The technology is neither ‘better’ nor ‘worse’ than being face-to-face; just different, producing different opportunities and challenges, and therefore enabling different teaching and learning strategies. The challenge for those responsible for facilitating online learning is to consider how we can best deliver the aims of a ministry education program, while the challenge for those considering taking up online learning is to consider the unique learning strategies they need to adopt to make the most of the opportunities presented.
The Timothy Partnership has great potential to overcome the isolations of ministry training. For more information take a look at the website at http://timothypartnership.com.au Please join us in praying for this exciting new venture and, if you’re able, why not join us at the launch on November 25, whether by distance via web-cast, or face-to-face.
Celebration Launch for the Distance Diploma of Theology:
When: Wednesday 25th November, 7:30pm
Where: Presbyterian Theological Centre, 77 Shaftesbury Rd, Burwood
Join us in praising God for his gracious provision to us, hear about the new online Diploma of Theology course and find out whether it could be used by you or people in your church.
RSVP: To rsvp or for more info email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the PY office in Sydney on (02) 8567 4700.