For the last year and a half, I’ve given up a day of work at my job to work for the church as a volunteer and so I must say I was a little bit surprised when it was  suggested that I should do a course. Only having a one day a week available, I thought that ‘using up’ so much of it going to a course was a lot! (Formation School, previously know as SMD "School of Missional Disciple-making", used to be Tuesday afternoons and evenings, next year it’ll run just Tuesdays evenings and few Saturdays too) Anyway, after persuasion I decided to do the course and I must say I’m really pleased I did, it’s been a really good use of that time. Of course you could argue that during that time I could have done “stuff" serving the church instead, but the training has really enriched and added a freshness to the areas in which I am serving as well as giving me a real boost in my own walk with the Lord and equipping me in talking to others about my faith. That’s what the course is about, to equip and envision disciples of Jesus who then go on to to equip and envision other disciples themselves.

I thoroughly recommend the course to anyone who is already leading at church in some capacity or would like to get more involved in leading or serving the church. If you are leading a house group or youth activities, worship, a prayer group, a toddler group, alpha, children’s work or even if you’re not leading but you, this course would equip you and help you to grow in your faith.

On the course there aren’t any assignments, homework, essays or anything like that which I think is a real help if you have to fit it in around all the other things going on in life. I know that I would have found it really hard to keep a good life balance if on top of everything I had to write lots of essays. It does mean you don’t get any sort of qualification or anything but that’s not really the aim, the aim is to be equipped and envisioned.

John Risbridger (from Above bar church), one of the teachers on the course, explained that the course isn’t trying to give us head knowledge to make us clever but to help us love and worship Jesus more. And that’s really exciting and as we went through the bible overview, the book of Ephesians or the Gospel of John, there were many sessions that were so exciting that we did just wanted to worship and praise Jesus!

There are 5 tracks on the course, each is really quite different and brings a real variety and breadth to the course. There are lots of subjects and topics that I might never have chosen to look into properly before, this has been good as it’s helped me to explore, discover and stretch myself. When we read Christian books or attend an individual talk on something we get the choice of which book or talk to go to and so we only explore those that we have an interest in, this can be quite narrow. Attending a course with such variety widens our spectrum. Formation school addresses lots of relevant and tricky topics such as suffering, science, failure, homosexuality, media, world views, other religions,... among many others.

I like the way that the course is lead. A core belief is discipling others who then disciple others and I think the course embodies that belief. The course leaders have a real concern for our growth and that we may in turn help those that we disciple to grow... Things that are taught are put in to practise and exercised, it’s very practical, we have opportunities to try things and receive feedback, everything is led by example. There’s also a lot of group work and each session is very interactive.There’s also times of meeting up in small groups each week (Called ‘huddles’) as well as a meeting with a mentor, all these things are put in place to help us grow.

I’ve already mentioned it but next year the course will be running on Tuesday evening and some Saturdays enabling more people who work in a 9-5 job to attend and I think that’s really exciting, the course will no longer only be accessible to those who’ve been able to take the time off, it’s so great to have such a great resource provided right here in Southampton (Thanks Above Bar Church!). Wouldn’t it be great if all our team leaders and house group leaders were more equipped, sharper, more in love with Jesus and having a greater outward looking mindset! I’d love to see lots of others at Portswood Church doing the course next year, I think there would be real transformation.

First though, I’m going to persuade my wife to do it next year! :-)

For more information about Formation school, check out the website,