Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Why I love Relay

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.


gazleaney said...

I wanted to say a big WOO to your post. So there you go.

Also, I think people are wrong to think of it as "either/or" - people who've done Relay can still go and do church apprenticeships - I know lots of people who did, including me. And I think it's the perfect way round - Relay gave me a great basis from which to approach church work. Having been taught to rely on grace, to keep an eye on work levels, and to work interdenominationally have all been massively helpful in working for a church.

Gareth said...

"Relay is a brilliant way of growing Christians who can serve the churches whilst Relay Workers"

I'm not so sure on that point. As a current Relay Worker - I have virtually no time to be serving the local church that I'm apart of in Leicester. Granted I do have a few other factors in my case.

Just my thoughts.

Little Mo said...

Hmmm - Gareth.

1) You need to discuss that with your supervisor.

2) Isn't helping the Cu do mission better quite a good way of serving your local church?

Gareth said...

Hmm indeed! I love Relay I really do but it can be quite difficult to get involved and serve a local church, particularly if you're in a city different than the one you went to university in. Of course I'm also engaged so that takes me away from where I am a bit more than would otherwise be the case. But the work that I do on Relay that occurs outside of normal office hours seems often to conflict with church activites, whether that be a mission taking me away from the city for a Sunday or being asked to speak at an event that happens to coincide with a house group.

And yes helping the CU do mission better is excellent and a great way of serving the local church - but it can feel quite... distant? from the local churches sometime.

peterdray said...

Gareth (the second one!) - I understand what you're saying but agree with Mo. As parachurch we support local churches (more than one) in being a wider witness on their behalf where there mightn't otherwise be one. And the place where those who become Christians enjoy teaching and lifelong community is the local church. I was at a baptism of a lad who'd become a Christian through CU three weeks ago (at a local church in Lancaster, although not my local church), which was thrilling.

I agree that sometimes it can be frustrating not being able to make every church meeting and prayer meeting, but ideally the church members should realise that they are freeing you from other church responsibilities to be part of the wider witness and ministry of the church. That's what I experienced as Relay Worker in Bristol. I was involved directly in church ministry (especially with international visitors) but also freed up from other meetings to help resource the CU (which was made up of members of my own local church and others in Bristol).