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The GIFT of Discipleship

The Congregational Federation, together with the Congregational Institute for Practical Theology (CIPT), offers a range of ways to help our churches and their members on their paths of discipleship. Christ in All Things is a guide to church membership which churches have used not only to help new members begin to consider the meaning of discipleship, but also for others within the church to remind themselves what it means to be Congregational. Christ in All People follows on from this, by helping churches to discern and develop the gifting of those within the church.

What is the next step for those who wish to explore their faith and discipleship more deeply? We have a GIFT course - a resource that can be used in a variety of ways. It is a set of modules covering different aspects of faith and church life. Churches can choose one or more modules to share and study together, or they can choose to follow the whole course. If there are not many in a church who wish to share in this way, individuals can contact us to see if there are churches near to them that are following GIFT, and they can join them.

The topics covered in GIFT are as follows:

Core Modules:
1. The Word of Life: an exploration of the Bible
2. The Life of Faith: developing discipleship
3. Faith in the World: the church’s story and mission.
4. Being Congregational: the vision of a church that is Christ-centred and Spirit-filled in practice.

Optional Modules:
5a. Growing Disciples: working with adults in the church
5b. Working with Young People and Children
5c. Church Management and Administration
5d. Living Worship
5e. Mission

Descriptions of these modules can be found on the CF website. Each module has a module handbook to guide your studies and thoughts. There are also assignments with each module – but only for those who wish to do them. Students who choose to do assignments, and pass them, will receive a certificate from CIPT.

CIPT has established a GIFT Team with members around the UK. We can put you in touch with the nearest team member who will be delighted to help you and give advice. If you decide to run a course, CIPT will fund one visit by a team member either to help you set up the course or to participate in a training event. Members of the GIFT team will also mark your assignments, should you decide to submit them. CIPT may also put you in touch with tutors in your area who could help to teach some of the sessions.

There is no fixed way to run a GIFT course. It can be arranged in any way which suits the needs of participants and tutors. When we ran the course at Market Harborough, we met on various Sundays at 9.15 am, covered one session, joined the church for morning worship, ate lunch together and covered two more sessions in the afternoon. As a guide we suggest you spend about three hours on each module (e.g. two sessions of 1.5 hours each). But you can cover the course in your own way – over days or evenings or whatever suits your needs. You can also start at any time of the year. The Market Harborough course ran from February to October.

Key to the success of a local GIFT course is a local co-ordinator – someone who will bring participants together to decide when and where sessions will be held, who will download the materials from the CF website and who will liaise with CIPT and the GIFT team. Such a co-ordinator may come from the local church or you may find someone at Area level who can help. In fact, some local GIFT courses are now being organised by CF Areas.

Individuals, churches or areas interested in using the GIFT materials in any of the ways outlined above can contact the CIPT office on training@ congregational.org.uk or phone 0115 9111 460 and they will help you to access materials. Where appropriate, they will also put you in contact with the National GIFT Coordinator, who can in turn put you in touch with the relevant member of the GIFT Team.

The GIFT course does not need to be the end of your explorations. If you discover that you are enjoying this sharing and studying, and if you have been doing the assignments and getting pass marks on them, York St John University, our validating university, recognises the GIFT course as an entry qualification for CIPT’s Foundation Degree in Practical Theology – even if you have no other qualifications. A good number of people have done just that!

We are all on a journey of discipleship, so why not make these opportunities known within your church, discuss at church meeting, and encourage those in your churches to learn more about their faith.
Richard Pickering