The second round of Relay applications is drawing to a close. And has Mo has noted, there are places in the country where many people that are weighing up whether or not to do Relay are perhaps being persuaded that the better option is to do a church apprenticeship instead, on the grounds that theologically the local church is more central to what God is doing in the world than CUs.
Now I realise that pretty much everyone in Christian ministry seems to recommend whatever they did themselves as the path. I also have nothing against church apprenticeships. Many friends of mine have gone on the serve the church in this way and have learned loads. However, the basic principle of what Mo says is true: that encouraging recent graduates to do Relay is also an incredible way of growing the church. Far from draining the resources of the church, Relay is a brilliant way of growing Christians who can serve the churches whilst Relay Workers (in helping CUs to do what churches can't on campus) and, particularly, for the years afterwards.
I owe many things to Relay and I've spoken about my experiences both as a Relay Worker and on Relay staff before. Here are some of the other things that I love about Relay, and where I consider the programme to be a massive grace to the worldwide church:
- The wonderful, wonderful emphasis on grace. Saved by grace, changed by grace, ministering by grace. Many of the people I know that understand grace best are those that have been touched by the Relay programme.
- The gentleness and humility that comes through working alongside those of different evangelical convictions. It's sad to meet people who hold convictions and who loudly proclaim these convictions merely because it's the party line of the Christians with whom they have been built up. In my own experience (and in the experiences of many others), working alongside Christians from very different backgrounds and realising that these other Christians loved Jesus just as much as I do was very humbling.
- A great theology of worship. It seems to me that overwork is one of the massive problems in Christian ministry. Relay taught me that Christian ministry is great - but it's not God, and that I can honour God through getting good rest and time off.
- A holistic emphasis on growth. I love the fact that I get to share my life with the Relay Workers I supervise. Yes - I care about their ministry. But I also care about them. The fact that this is built into the Relay programme is a massive bonus.
- Equipping for a lifetime ahead. Relay is equally valuable for life no matter what a Relay Worker choose to do after their year. The lessons learned aren't merely significant for the year of ministry.
I could go on. I know there's plenty of church apprenticeships that to some extent offer what I've mentioned above. But I hate to see just a good thing as Relay criticised just because it's not offered through local churches.