The Mission Apprentice Scheme

The Mission Apprentice Scheme has been running, in different guises, since 2012. There are two overarching objectives: 

  • To find, support and equip new missional leaders
  • Support parishes, in some of our most deprived neighbourhoods, to start new missional initiatives.  

In 2012-2014 our MAs supported 7 parishes, followed by 10 parishes in 2015-2017, with our most recent cohort having just completed the scheme in 10 more parishes which ran from 2018-2020.  

The Scheme has taken the format of a two-year apprenticeship for an individual showing promise in missional leadership, working with an experienced supervisor and a congregation in a parish experiencing some levels of disadvantage, to grow an aspect of mission. The Mission Apprentice post is a paid appointment, for 20 hours per week, including a fortnightly learning programme.

Together we have celebrated opportunities for growing leadership, nurturing and deepening discipleship, and personal growth:

"At the beginning, I felt I was a sort of Mary Poppins figure – I would fly in and do some high impact stuff. But instead I’ve been changed quite a lot. I’m happy and excited, but the route hasn’t been straightforward and there were obstacles outside my control. I feel invested in, empowered, encouraged, loved and supported – so I can grow as a missionary and grow the Kingdom. It has been humbling. I have found out more about myself."

We have faced challenges and difficulties together, and when the MAs have moved on, they have found it has given them confidence to continue as leaders.

The most recent scheme has been supported by a Reference Group, and led by a Mission Apprentice Scheme Coordinator, to provide vision, oversight, training and support, MA and Parish Key Performance Indicators and monitoring of the scheme.

We want to share our learning from this scheme in as many ways as possible, and have been able to pass on ideas and learning to some of our neighbouring dioceses.  If you would like to know more, please contact Steve Cook, Programme Manager – Shaping the Future.

We give our thanks to the the primary funder for the third cohort of Mission Apprentices, the Allchurches Trust.  

To find out more details about our most recent cohort, please read this report:

Allchurches Trust Mission Apprentice Scheme - August 2018.

Watch as our Mission Apprentices tell their stories

We have documented the Mission Apprentice Scheme since 2012, so please watch just a selection of the Mission Apprentice stories from different parishes, and also why CofE Birmingham set up this scheme initially.

Please click here for Mission Apprentice videos

Read the blogs written by the most recent Mission Apprentice cohort from 2018-2020:

Chloe Hewett - Holy Cross, Billesley

Listening to the Community:
Waiting on God Christmas is almost here! We are but one week away from celebrating the time our Saviour was given to us as an infant and looking ahead to when He comes again in glory. It should be a time of joyful anticipation of the coming of Christ, so why do we react to the wait of Advent with a flurry of activity? Are we subconsciously avoiding being still because time spent waiting feels like time wasted, and in our busy lives we can’t afford to waste a single moment?
When I began the Mission Apprentice Scheme I was placed in a new context, Holy Cross in Billesley and I didn’t want to waste any time by waiting to see what initiatives I could start that the local community would most benefit from; I wanted to dive straight in. I immediately began preparations with my vicar for launching a Place of Welcome in November 2018, which is a space valued particularly by the elderly and the lonely as a place for regular conversation and fellowship.
Our Place of Welcome may be small in terms of numbers, but it is big in heart and fellowship. There is never a quiet moment! We warmly welcome a wide variety of people, from our youngest attendee (6 months) to our oldest (90+), and it has become a place for people to bring and share their gifts, talents and time. I also became involved with the children and youth ministry at Holy Cross, which felt expected of me due to my previous experience and being female working in a church! I enjoy this work immensely, but I felt there was something else I was meant to be doing.
Holy Cross has a thriving Messy Church and hosts a popular Stay & Play, although numbers of under-16s are low on a Sunday, and I didn’t feel that I was meant to be placing my focus in this area. I decided to allow myself the ‘luxury’ of waiting; listening and observing where God was at work already, and where I was needed to facilitate this work. I had noticed the tangible air of spirituality in the community almost as soon as I arrived as Mission Apprentice, and through prayer and reflection I knew God was asking me to open the church space for people to explore their inner selves and spiritual nature in peace and tranquillity.
In September 2019 I launched Breathing Space; a safe space for all people, for meditating, praying, or simply just being still. The numbers using this safe space grow month on month, as attendees invite those who they know need this time. I just facilitate this tranquil space; Jesus is doing the rest. I pray that Breathing Space adapts to the changing needs of the local community, and that it continues to allow people the space to explore their faith without agenda in their own time, which may well match God’s time.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children” (chapter 4:4-5), Jesus was sent to be one with us and enable us to become God’s children, but he only came to earth when the time was right: God’s time. And when he comes again it will be in God’s time. God will guide us along the path he wishes us to tread as we wait for Christ’s second coming, we just need to be willing to listen, to hear and to follow. We don’t need to do any of the hard work - that was and is Jesus’ role. We are facilitators, the earthly hands and feet of God.
We must give ourselves permission to wait, look and see God in the quiet spaces and assist his work, no matter how long it takes to see results. Embrace the uncertainty of waiting, and entrust it to God, for He knows the plans that He has made. God made his people wait for centuries before fulfilling his promise to send His Son, and we have waited many more centuries for Christ’s second advent, growing in faith as we wait.
The period of Advent is about more than waiting for Christmas; as we await the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we are also preparing our hearts for his second coming. When our heads and hearts become weary this festive season, know that the waiting is not empty; it is full of the hope that God has promised to deliver to us, in His time.
Written by Mission Apprentice, Chloë Hewett. Why not check out Chloë’s mini film, Breathing Space.

Lizzie Steele - Bishop Latimer, Winson Green

My ministry 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ The first time I read this verse from Matthew 25, it left its mark on me. I had a comfortable upbringing and I really enjoyed my childhood. I spent much of it playing football and had the support of my parents to drive me around the country to play at a high level. I was fortunate, but I didn’t quite realise the reality of my privilege until my faith journey took a hit. 

Taking a hit  

During my first year at university, I came to terms with my sexuality. It was a long and painful journey. I eventually came out and entered into a wonderful relationship with Naomi. As I told people this, there were moments of excitement and moments of rejection. This was really difficult and for the first time in my life I had felt excluded. It was even harder because it was the Christian circles that both Naomi and I were in where we faced the rejection. Since then, we have found inclusive and welcoming Christian spaces that have included us for who we are.  

A heart for social justice 

My own journey got me really thinking though, who else has faced rejection and what can I do to encourage others to feel like they belong? The spaces that accepted me were really important, they stirred a passion in me to think about creating spaces for others who had also felt rejection. This is where my heart for social justice was born. I realised how much of Jesus’s work had been about working with the marginalised and the rejected and how he encouraged us to do the same (Matthew 25:34-46). I questioned who is not at the table, why are they not there and how do we welcome them there? 

Becoming a Mission apprentice  

In my final year at university I met Ash and Anji Barker and started to work with them at Newbigin House in Winson Green, Birmingham. Everyone is welcome here and there is a focus on empowering local people. Then, the opportunity to work as a Mission Apprentice in Winson Green after graduating came along and I grabbed it with both hands.  


The mission apprentice has allowed me to ask questions and grow. I have learnt so much about myself and how to live out my faith by loving and serving others. I use sport and my passion for youth work in my role as Mission Apprentice. I believe the struggles that I have faced has impacted how I conduct my ministry. Regardless of background, I always try to encourage and welcome people in order for them to feel like they belong just as I believe Christ would. This is what drives me in my ministry. I believe God is an inclusive and loving God and everyone is welcome.  


I am aware that I am white and middle class and have been rejected because of my sexuality. There are those who have faced rejection due to race, class and disability and that breaks my heart. I am continuing to educate myself on how to be aware of my prejudices and how we can bring those who are on the margins to the centre just as I believe Jesus would. I believe we can do this by creating spaces for people who are different to lead. I believe empowering is all about letting go of the power you have and allowing others to rise up and grab hold of it. 


I want to end this by encouraging you to think about what you can do to work with those who are different to you and how can you encourage and empower people without changing them, but just by meeting them exactly where they are, just like our amazing God does.  

Lou Bayliss - St David's, Shenley Green

In God We Trust: Faith in the Midst of Imposter Syndrome 

A few weeks ago we ushered in a new decade. My social media feed was littered with people doing the 10-year challenge - comparing photos from 2010 and now. I remember thinking how different some people looked, whilst others hadn’t changed at all. Then there were those who were now pictured with their husbands, wives, children. It got me thinking, ‘what’s different in my life now, 10 years on?’ A lot has happened in that time for sure, but nothing could have prepared me for the biggest change of all: meeting Jesus. 

I didn’t “do” church or “the God thing”. Yet here I am now, 33 years old and nearly 3 years since I met with the Holy Spirit. I was sitting in my room just listening to some music and bam! He got me. He changed my life overnight, turned it upside down, inside out, back the other way and gave it an extra shake, just for good measure. 

What had hit me was love. The realization that nothing I could do could make God love me more or less…mind blown!  

That love then seeped into everything else, particularly my mental health. I have battled depression for over 15 years, with some very serious episodes that meant I just didn’t want to be here anymore. My newfound faith wasn’t a quick fix, but God gives me the bumper between feeling lost and rock bottom, because when I’m lost, He guides me back.  

One of the side effects of the depression is a habit of doubting myself, often experiencing imposter syndrome. So how, after just 3 years of committing myself to Christ, have I ended up working for the church?! My knowledge of the Bible was (still is) terrible, and as for the customs that surrounded the Anglican tradition - I had no idea. Fears plagued me as I considered my new role. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if I didn’t know how to answer people’s question? What did I have to offer? I felt I had so much to learn before God could really use me. But he has called me to this time and place, and now here I am.  

After thinking my lack of experience would be a disadvantage, I have discovered the opposite. It has meant I can empathize and relate to the suspicions and questions surrounding Christianity. Being able to answer honestly and acknowledge where I’m still unsure and working things out, has been really helpful in building relationships. God often stretches us beyond what we think is possible. He calls us to things that seem way beyond our capabilities.  

I try to remember these three things. 

God is patient. Sometimes we might feel insufficient for the task God has called us to do, but we’re not alone. The Bible is full of stories of people who doubt and even reject God’s call. For example, Moses with the responsibility of a mass exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3.11). God patiently responds that he will be with Moses, giving him the power and grace to deliver the people. 

Secondly God will equip us. My experiences have enabled me to find a level on which to engage with people. As Paul puts it, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9.8). God doesn’t call us to something only to leave us to fend for ourselves. He provides for us, and He enables us to finish the task in hand. 

Thirdly God enables us to give those fears the heave ho with trust. How do you respond when God calls you to something that seems beyond you? When we argue or doubt ourselves, we’re not trusting the God who promises to always be with us. We think we know what we are capable of, but God loves to stretch us beyond what we think is possible. 

Maybe you’re overwhelmed by a new responsibility at work or home. Maybe you’re asked to lead a Bible study and you feel you’re not ready. Whatever it may be, God wants us to remember the same thing he told Moses: he will be with us. He will equip us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9).  

He will give us the grace and the tools needed, we just need to remember to open the toolkit and see what’s inside. 

Failing that, remember- God’s got it. 

Written by Mission Apprentice Lou Bayliss  

Mandy Widdas - St Editha's, Amington

Shining faith through hospitality 

When I was asked if I would consider being a Mission Apprentice for my church (St. Editha’s, Amington), I was surprised and slightly torn. I loved being in church and doing churchy things, but I was already working at a local preschool and would have to reduce my hours to pursue a different calling. It was a tough decision I had to face, but I applied for the position and to my surprise (but not God’s) I got it!   

My first task was to develop The Ark ‘stay & play’ session which runs for local families. It was small to begin with, but we are now seeing a growth in the number of parents and carers bringing their children along to enjoy toast, drinks, free play, bible stories, craft, songs and socialising.  

I felt another call from God and when I started as a Mission Apprentice, I was really keen to start up ‘Place of Welcome’, a Church Urban Fund (CUF) initiative. I wanted to offer a place of hospitality for anyone who needed it and tackle the social isolation in my area. However, I hit a stumbling block - we had to wait until a new kitchen was installed along the wall of the church. 

It was frustrating having to wait, particularly when I was seeing and hearing about all the fantastic activities the other Mission Apprentices had started up, but it did give me time for reflection and relationship-building. Now the new kitchen is installed and it was well worth the wait! 

Thursdays are my busiest day. After we have packed away The Ark stay & play we immediately start to set up for our afternoon session. Our Place of Welcome is a community gathering where anyone can come along for a friendly face, a cup of tea or coffee, eat cakes and enjoy quizzes, craft and a conversation if and when they need it. 

I couldn’t run either of these sessions without the help of the amazing volunteers who support me, we are blessed here in Amington with such generous volunteers, baking cakes, setting up, clearing away and joining in to help tackle loneliness and isolation locally.  

One of the things I love the most is the ordinariness of our sessions. One minute we’re playing Christian music, and the next, rock and roll. Some people do come here and want to find out more about our church services, and several parents who come to the stay & play have had their children baptised here, but really, it’s all about the joy of bringing people together in community and in the church. It’s a great feeling. 

1 Peter 4:8-10 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”. 

I’ve found that welcoming people into our church has been easy, the next challenge for me is to speak about the Kingdom of God. This is my prayer “to find opportunity to speak about the Good News that is Jesus Christ”. 

Written by Mission Apprentice Mandy Widdas 

Marie Ford, St Gabriel's, Weoley Castle

Working out God's calling in Weoley Castle 

When I started working as a mission apprentice, I thought I had all the answers to what was needed in my parish, I was so wrong. God, had other plans for me, I thought we needed to do more with poverty and those in need, like when you see on the tv, when people go to these countries, I wanted to help all, but where to start? was a big question for me. 

The first thing on my list was, we needed to do something for Halloween, bring the light into the darkness, and make it fun, not just for our parish but for our church. A lot of people will not celebrate Halloween because it is all about something bad, and the community will not come to the church with their children because they thought, because we are a church that we would not celebrate it, its not about celebrating it, it’s about making it fun for our community and try and show people, we are fun and we would love to shine the light into this night. My vicar even got me to dress up as an angel, it was so much fun, and in that one night we had over 50 children and families came through our doors. That was more than we have ever had. The one thing we struggled with was getting people to help, but we managed it, and it turned out to be a great evening. 

One of the things I struggled with was the postcode, let me explain, here in Weoley Castle a lot of the youths will not come over to the B29, and the B29 will not come over to the B32 area, it was not just a big main road getting in the way, but postcode wars was ripe and still is an issue. But what was shocking was it was not just the youths that wouldn’t come over, but a lot of Bartley Green area wouldn’t. I needed to do something, so when Fred mentioned to us ma’s to do a mapping of the area it really helped me in a way I didn’t expect. It got me to see what was and wasn’t in the area for people, and helped me to know I had to do a prayer walk every week, so, I can go out to them to talk, on their own ground. It was shocking to find out a lot of people didn’t know we were still open, or even know we even existed, which was so hard for me, because I thought we done a lot for our community, but we was forgetting or even missing out a big part of our parish. But with a lot of walking, and talking, and prayer, and the help of God, I got to know a few people in the area and even have them difficult conversations, at first they was very sceptical of me, they thought I was there to preach to them, or even judge them for the choices they make. It took very slowly and was very hard some days, but I kept hearing God saying you need to do this, they need it. So, 18 months later I get hello’s and even asked if I’m ok, which is amazing feeling. And I’ve had a few youths asking questions about my faith and why I’m doing the things I do. They still have not come over that road yet, but I have faith God is at work there, and I will keep walking, praying, talking as long as, God needs me. 

I love my job so much, even on the hard days, God has shown nothing is worth much if you don’t have to work hard at it, nothing about being a Christian is easy, because there been sometimes when things have come up and the things I’ve seen while working as an ma has made me stop and take a breath and ask the horrid question which a lot of us are scared to ask, “WHY?” but keeping prayer close and God I knew it was ok to ask. Being a ma has gave me the strength to not just grow as a person but as a Christian, and I would not change it for the world, and each day something different happens so it keeps you on your toes, normality is overrated anyway. 

Ricky Sandiford - St Clements, Castle Bromwich

Leap of Faith Reaps Rich Reward 

Courage and compassion are the key to Christian mission 

Ricky Sandiford took a leap of faith, quite literally, when he left his career in engineering after 12 years to become a Mission Apprentice - a scheme recruiting and training new church leaders in the Church of England in Birmingham that is funded by Allchurches Trust. In this blog, he talks about his early experience on the scheme and shares his advice with others who might be considering a future in ministry and mission. 

When I made the decision to join the Mission Apprentice scheme, I was walking away from a good wage, but I truly believed that this was my calling, and I was so fortunate to have the support and backing of my family.  

There are two things I have really enjoyed about my first four months of working as an Allchurches Trust Mission Apprentice for the Church of England in Birmingham. The first has been having the opportunity to do mission and to serve! I get just as much out of serving as the people I serve and I really feel God transforms us in service to others. The spiritual reward has been incredible.  

Secondly, being part of the Mission Apprentice Scheme has enabled me to stand back and see where I am, but also to see God’s hand moving in every aspect of my work and spiritual development. I feel that I am finally where he wants me to be and I am doing what he wants me to do.  

Mission covers so many areas of ministry, but for me, mission is all about connecting with those who are in need - spiritually and physically. I have found that the best way to do this effectively is to just jump straight in. At the beginning, I wasted so much time in preparing and being too cautious, but you have to just be brave and throw caution to the wind. That’s when I have been at my best in my mission, just like in my faith.  

There will, of course, be disappointments along the way, and those can feel like failures sometimes, but it is important to recognise those low points as part of the journey. I can see that and say that now, but I admit that those days you feel you have failed or have fallen short are really challenging. In those times, I think you have to take heart from just being there for people in the tough times and understand how much that means to them.  

Many times I have asked myself the question: “Am I actually doing anything to help? Am I serving a purpose?” But I have learned that just being there can be very powerful and a great comfort. It is important not to underestimate the impact of just asking someone if they are okay and letting them know that you are there for them if they need anything. That spiritual and emotional comfort can be just as significant as helping a struggling family with practical items such as clothes and food.  

My advice to anyone who wants to explore mission is firstly to realise that you are not the one doing the work; you’re the facilitator. The problems of the world are too big for you! You have to recognise that it is in God’s hands and his will is at play. For me, it’s important to always listen and to pray for guidance and for the people you serve. I’ve also found that being comfortable in yourself is essential working in this kind of role.  

You must also cherish the time you have away from mission and to take time out from thinking about those in need and those you are caring for. You need this time to protect yourself from burnout! So switch off and enjoy family and friends and don’t feel guilty about it.  

Above all else, I remember the words my supervisor told me… Do God’s work but leave no footprints! That’s the best advice for being a Christian Missionary! 

By Ricky Sandiford, Mission Apprentice for St. Clements Castle Bromwich 

Sian Mehlmann - St Luke's, Great Colmore Street

The Asperger's Part of the Body of Christ 

At 27 years old I have had many years to get used to the ‘neuro-diverse’ side of me. The Christian side? Not so much. This is because I did not become a Christian until I was around 22 during my second year of university. 

I didn’t grow up in a church. Coming to faith was the most unlikely and wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. However, putting together my identity as someone with autism and someone who was Christian, has never been and probably never will be easy.   

After becoming a Christian, I did something many people with neuro-diverse conditions have done: I prayed for healing. It feels funny to write that now, as I know that God has made me who I am, and instead of praying for healing I needed to become a lot more comfortable with placing my identity in Christ. I always felt like this part of me, the ‘autistic part’ was a barrier to both my relationship with Jesus and the purpose God has for me.  

The turning point for me was stumbling upon Paul’s metaphor for the church: 1Corinthians 12: 12-13 

‘Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…’ 

I make up the body of Christ! I am needed exactly as I am, but I also need other people too. For anyone who knows anything about Asperger’s, you will be aware that those who live with it can find social interaction difficult or even painful. Physical touch for me is not my favourite thing and when I first attended a communion service and the Peace came up, I froze. My heartbeat sped up as I realised what was happening and I just stood in shock as those around me greeted each other with handshakes, hugs and even kisses on the cheek. For me, even hugging my family was something only done on rare occasions.  

That isn’t even the worst part. That awkwardness that happens when someone goes in for a hug while the other a handshake; this is something I am likely to analyse for weeks. I overthink what that person must think of me, when they have forgotten it all, moments after it had happened. When someone comes to hug me, I sometimes grin and bear it.  

Yet, recently I have realised that this is not helpful or inclusive. I would never suggest to someone in my shoes to grin and bear it, so why do I do it myself? This is something I continue to reflect on.  

So, can I be autistic and be a part of a church community and the ministry of that church? This was a question I asked myself continuously before applying for the role of Mission Apprentice. Telling people about Jesus means talking to them! 

Yet, my faith and my trust have to be in God. I can do all things through Him. The Holy Spirit is helpful too, especially when I am tongue tied. I pray for God’s strength when I have something coming up that is challenging in terms of social interaction and it gets me through. 

The most helpful thing I have come to realise is I don’t have to be someone I’m not; just the person God made me to be. Remarkably and wonderfully made in God’s image. I simply have a different way of thinking. I process information differently. It’s true that Asperger’s Syndrome brings its own set of challenges in life, but my relationship with Jesus is based on His grace, not my condition. I pray for a world where everyone can be who they are in church and know God’s love for them, as deeply as I do now.  

Written by Mission Apprentice Sian Mehlmann  

Sian Mehlmann died unexpectedly in December 2020. Sian had a significant ministry as part of the Church of England Birmingham's Mission Apprentice cohort from 2018-2020, for which we will always be grateful. She will be missed and cherished by many.

Links to news articles:  

Mission Apprenctice Scheme 2018-2020

Mission Apprentice Commissioning Service 18 September 2018 with Bishop Anne

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