Trained pastoral leadership is one of the great needs of Evangelical Churches in Spain. There is a direct link between the availability of trained pastors and the stability, health and outward vision of the churches. The Dual Programme is a project shared between the Evangelical School of Theology (EET) and the Federation of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEIDE) which seeks to do something to meet this need.
The Dual Programme combines the flexibility and academic rigour of our online degree programme with the value of personal mentorship by an experienced pastor. Carefully selected candidates must convince the admissions committee that they have a clear pastoral calling. Then for a minimum of two years, but for four if funds permit, the ‘pastor-in-training’ spends fifty percent of his time studying online and the other fifty percent in pastoral ministry. An experienced pastor serves as the mentor. This is a committment to fortnightly contact with the pastor-in-training and monthly meetings to work through one of the evaluation exercises contained in the EET mentorship manual. These exercises guide evaluation of the new pastor´s ministry in areas such as effective use of time, preaching, leading services, pastoral visitation, special services such as weddings and funerals, chairing meetings (office bearers and members) as well as care of their own spiritual vitality. New exercises are being added in areas such as team work, church finances and the management of change.
Juan Casero is the latest pastor-in-training admitted to the programme on 1st Sept 2020. He and his wife Africa were the very first missionaries sent out through our FIEIDE mission department – they served in Ecuador for a two-year period. During their time there they helped a town church provide support to five rural congregations very like those which have sprung up as a result of Irish Baptist missionary work in the highlands of southern Peru. While they were there they were able to see first-hand the great need for trained pastors and this contributed to a conviction in Juan that upon the return of the family to Spain, he should train for pastoral ministry.
We are delighted with some of the results we are already seeing. Miguel Roiz and his wife Diana are from Lugones in the very north of Spain. On a Sunday around 25-30 people meet together with them. They felt that there was little realistic hope of their church-plant having a trained pastor. And yet this is so strategic as in some directions there is no Evangelical church for 50 km. Since Miguel was admitted to the programme in September 2019 the little congregation is delighted. They comment on the improvement in his preaching and the greater confidence with which he leads. He in turn is encouraged by a growing desire of the members for more Bible study and by the very marked increase in the offerings as the believers rise to the challenge. Helping small churches believe it is possible for them to have their own full-time pastor is one of our objectives, so after only a year we are seeing direct fruit of this programme’s approach in Lugones.
In Ireland many of you have met Isaac Arbalat, our first pastor-in-training - he and his wife Karla took part in the 2019 Missions Night. The church in Talavera (south west of Madrid) is doing well and Isaac is growing in all aspects of his pastoral ministry. He will complete the programme in December 2021, Lord willing.
We are also pleased with the progress shown by the other two pastors-in-training, Eric Rodriguez and David López, both in churches in Barcelona. As a result, the project has aroused quite a lot of interest across the Federation.
To enable the pastor-in-training to commit himself full-time, the church is helped by a dedicated EET-FIEIDE fund so as together to be able to pay the Spanish legal minimum salary. Every year this figure is set by the Spanish government; for 2020 the total annual cost (including social security and taxes) was €16,500. The EET-FIEIDE fund aspires to provide 50% of this total, i.e. €8,250.
At a time when small churches are struggling somewhat and candidates for pastoral ministry are in short supply, we are delighted that through our involvement in the EET Dual Programme, Baptist Missions is helping to make a strategically very important contribution to the health and development of churches across Spain.