Final Year Reflection
By Chris Banks
Writing this reflection is very bittersweet. As I look back over my three years at the Irish Baptist College, I'm increasingly aware of what a wrench it will be to leave, but also how thankful I am for the way I have been equipped for future ministry. This is particularly heightened for me as in a couple of month's time I'll be taking up the role of pastor in Millisle Baptist Church. Having spent six months there on a student placement, my wife and I are really looking forward to becoming part of that local church family, where we experienced nothing but warm fellowship and friendship. Nevertheless, the role of a shepherd is a daunting one to take up, and that reality is now just around the corner! I want to use this space to reflect on how God has used my studies, the staff and my fellow students at IBC to shape and prepare me for the exciting but formidable task ahead.
The Preparation for Ministry course that I have taken is rigorous and wide-ranging in both its practical and academic elements. In fact, I resist separating those two elements as we are prone to do, because the two go hand in hand at IBC. In 'academic' modules, my mind was certainly stretched, but my tutors simultaneously and continually grounded their teaching in its pastoral significance. Practical elements such as sermon class and professional placement gave me an avenue to channel my studies towards what was always their intended end: ministering to God's people.
The staff at Irish Baptist College are all followers of Christ committed to his church. The background in pastoral ministry and/or church and missionary service that all staff members have is invaluable. More importantly, their present passion for serving Christ has been really formative for me, which comes out especially in their willingness to go the extra mile to help. On several occasions, an off the cuff question in class has been met with a detailed follow up response by email, and they always have an open door.
When thinking about where to study for ministry, I did consider the possibility of distance courses. My own pastor wisely counselled me to choose to study in-person at the Irish Baptist College. He said the friends he made in college are still friends, but more than that, vital colleagues whom he regularly calls on for support and encouragement in ministry. He also said the fellowship experienced in class devotions, prayers and evangelism teams are simply a vital part of Christian character formation and preparation for ministry. He was absolutely right! Studying and serving alongside an incredible group of students has been another essential spoke on the wheel of my time at the Irish Baptist College, and I have no doubt it will help keep that wheel turning throughout whatever length of service the Lord has called me to.