Ministry Experience Scheme key to Church of England goal of reaching more young people, conference hears


More than 800 young adults have taken part in year-long ministry placements over the past decade
Albert Osei

The Ministry Experience Scheme (MES) could play a key role in helping the Church of England achieve its goals of recruiting more people to work in ministry to children, youth and families by 2030, a conference has heard.

Rev Helen Fraser, Head of Vocations for the Church of England, spoke of her hope that the MES Future Youth programme – providing training in children and youth work for young adults as part of a year-long ministry placement - will grow following its pilot launch in six dioceses this year.

The programme, in its first intake, has 11 participants currently and is part of a wider MES placement scheme where young adults get a chance to explore ministry for a year. In the last decade more than 800 people have taken part in the scheme.

Speaking to more than 100 MES participants at a conference in London, Rev Fraser said vocation was not only about ordination and could include calling to a range of other ministerial roles in the Church.

“We often think vocation just means ordination but vocation actually is all that God calls us to - it just means ‘call’ and that can be as simple as Jesus saying to his disciples ‘come follow me’ – that is a vocation, all the way through to something very much more specific,” she said.

Addressing the MES participants, she said there were ‘lots and lots’ of different expressions of ministerial vocation: “I want to encourage you in this year, I hope you haven’t got the impression that this is a yes and no game about whether you are going to be ordained at the end of it,” she said.

“For some people that will be the really clear and right outcome. But please keep an open mind and a broad mind if that is not clear to you yet because there are lots of different expressions of ministerial vocation that will all, over time, help us to be the Church that God is calling us together to be.”

Those attending the conference included Future Youth scheme participant Joshua Sackey, 24, a former student at De Montfort University in Leicester, who is now part of the Imprint church in the city.

“It is quite amazing, in terms of learning,” he said. He was joined on the platform at the conference by Lily-Beth Smith, 19, also a Future Youth participant, working at St Andrew’s Church in Whitehaven, West Cumbria in the Diocese of Carlisle and Nadine Brown, 19, placed at Christ the King, Kettering, in the Diocese of Peterborough as part of the MES scheme. (See picture of Lily-Beth, Joshua and Nadine, left to right, below)

Jasmine Clark, 22, from St Mary’s and St Leonard’s parish in Nottingham, in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, another Future Youth participant said: “This is giving me an opportunity to explore my calling and whether youth ministry is what I would like to do long term.”

Also present at the conference were MES participants from Prague, the Netherlands, Paris and Lisbon in the Diocese in Europe.

Albert Osei, 29, from Ghana, (pictured, above) who is part of an international group of MES scheme participants at Liverpool Cathedral also spoke to the conference.

MES Chair and Chair of the Future Youth Steering Group, the Bishop of Jarrow, Sarah Clark said: “It is always a great joy for me to be at the MES and Future Youth conference and hear the stories of so many young adults utterly alive in their faith in Jesus Christ, actively exploring their vocation while serving their local church and community with love.”

Ministry Experience Scheme participants

More information

The Future Youth pilot dioceses are Carlisle, Derby, Southwell and Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield and Portsmouth. The MES scheme welcomes people aged between 18 and 30 years old and has grown from 14 in its first intake in 2013 to 103 starting in September 2023, with more than half its participants women, and 17% from UK minority Ethnic backgrounds.

Those taking part gain a range of experience from preaching to chaplaincy work to running social action projects and hospice and hospital visiting.

Around one in three participants go on to be recommended for ordained ministry while nearly all – 97% - report having found the scheme helpful to discern their vocation in life.