New era of learning for the Methodist Church

The Methodist Church has formally launched the biggest change ingenerations to how and where it offers training, learning anddevelopment, according to lead staff working for the newDiscipleship and Ministries Learning Network. Once up and running,it will offer greater opportunities for training for lay ministryand service. The Learning Network was set up as a direct result ofdecisions taken at Conference 2012 and recommendations in theFruitful Field report. Its development follows a year of scrutinyand debate in the Council and other governance bodies, as well asonline and in the letters page of the Methodist Recorder.

Nearly 20 posts are still being recruited, with closing datesin mid-September. The changes will result in  more staff being based regionally than before. Staff will work out of CliffCollege and the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, as well as inhome or regional offices. Jude Levermore, Head of Discipleship andMinistries, said "By having more Connexional Team members in theregions, we can combine the strengths of being a Connexional churchwith the strength of local mission. Being closer to where peopleare allows the Church to get the best out of what is alreadyhappening and what will be developed. We have a growing group oftalented, skilled and professional people. The potential ishuge."

The new work will cover the full range of church life under thebroad headings of Discipleship, Ministry and Church &Community. Said Jude: "this is a response to the challenge of beinga 'Discipleship Movement shaped for Mission'. If a church needsmore home group leaders, how are they trained and resourced? If acircuit wants to focus on youth ministry, or develop the skills ofthe circuit leadership team, where do they find help? If changingdemographics means a church needs to engage with Inter Faith workfor the first time, how can they know they are getting the best andmost up to date materials? To be a vital, growing church, we needto be a learning church."One of the key aspects of the LearningNetwork is that it will be shaped by and responsive to local needs.So in each of the 11 training regions there will be conversationsbetween the regional coordinators and the chairs of the districtsin that region and other District officers. These will producelearning and development work plans for each region. Network staffwill engage with superintendents and circuit meetings to enablelocal needs to be heard and suitably incorporated into theplan.

Paul Taylor, Director of Learning and Development (Regions),said: "Each region has different needs, which vary by geography,demographics and local vision. So we want to listen to the regionaland local needs along with the things that are identified as beingConnexion-wide."

For example, Safeguarding training for relevant staff is arequirement across the Connexion, and needs to be delivered in aconsistent way and to agreed standards. But although there will besome required core elements to any action plan, the Network staffwant to hear from and try to meet local needs. Says Paul Taylor:"the needs of a rural region will be different to those of an urbanone. Each region will be able to explore what its learning anddevelopment forum will look like. The membership of such a forumused to be quite rigidly set, but now will look different indifferent regions, to be able to better discuss local needs."

Revd Canon Dr David Hewlett, Principal of the Queen's Foundationsaid: "We are delighted that the Queen's Foundation, along with ourfriends at Cliff College, is part of this new era in Methodistlearning and development. As an ecumenical college, with 24academic staff and over 400 registered students, including 150 whoare preparing for ordained or authorised ministries, we arecommitted to bring the widest range of our research and experienceto all those we work with."