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A College of Peers – a new book

A COLLEGE OF PEERS – The College of Baptist Ministers 2013-2021 

A College of Peers is a ‘legacy volume’. It is the final ‘gift’ to the wider Baptist family from The College of Baptist Ministers. The College’s vision has been to help ministers grow and develop in their understanding and practice of ministry, and to be there for them in times of difficulty.

A College of Peers tells the often strange story of the difficulties experienced during the development of this body committed to ministerial well-being; and of how the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) it became impossible for the College to promote itself directly to ministers. Nonetheless for some seven years the College provided a wide range of resources to its members, including a monthly newsletter in which Board members reflected on the practice of ministry – twenty-four of these letters form the heart of this book. The book ends with two further reflections by the editor: one on servant leadership and the other on Christian worship.

A College of Peers – Hardback 184 pages

Members of CBM will receive a free copy of A College of Peers through the post in February-March. If anybody would like to order a copy for £10 including P&P please email peter@pbthomas.com

Here is the full list of contents.

A College of Peers: an introduction

The History of the College

  1. The beginnings and initial development 2010-2018
  2. The subsequent history 2018-2021
  3. Reflections on failure
  4. Reflections on achievement

Documents of the College

  1. The vision
  2. A code of ethics
  3. A supportive structure for Continuing Ministerial Development
  4. Guidelines for review
  5. Investing in leaders

Selected Letters of the College

  1. A New Year’s Eve watchnight service
  2. A book a week keeps a pastor awake
  3. Juggling with chickens
  4. Guidelines for the professional conduct of clergy
  5. Professionalism is to be welcomed
  6. Leadership and accountability in the church
  7. Building tomorrow’s church today: young adults and the church
  8. What do clergy do all week?
  9. Preaching at Christmas
  10. Post Truth and Donald Trump
  11. Let’s be concerned for our brother and sister ministers
  12. Children in the church
  13. Pastoral supervision
  14. Counselling young people
  15. Remembrance
  16. Preparing for Christmas
  17. Have we dumbed down our worship and preaching?
  18. Labels are dangerous
  19. Where do you find your support?
  20. Church life post-Covid – some thoughts
  21. Great reasons for meeting together one-to-one in a time of Covid
  22. From coping to recovery of the post-lockdown church
  23. Terminating ministry – an issue yet to be resolved
  24. Ending well

Two further reflections on aspects of ministry by Paul Beasley-Murray

  1. Leadership is always servant leadership
  2. Celebrating the Faith: Christian worship through the lens of 1 & 2 Timothy

The College of Baptist Ministers is Closing

Following the meeting of the CBM Board on Thursday 19 November I am writing to inform you that we have made the decision to begin the process of closing down the College of Baptist Ministers.

As you can imagine, it has not been an easy decision to make. We began with such high hopes in 2013. Yet sadly the leadership of the Baptist Union was determined to block the development of the College, believing there was no place for an independent body concerned for the wellbeing of Baptist ministers. Nor were we helped by the impact of the Government’s data protection regulations, which made ‘direct marketing’ impossible.

However, in this letter I want to strike a positive note. We have, for instance, been encouraged to see the way in which the Baptist Union has been implementing the Ignite recommendations, and in that regard we warmly welcome the plans announced this September for continuing ministerial development – a matter for which we ourselves had long campaigned. As a result, although we remain as convinced as ever for the need for ministers to be represented by an independent body when difficulties arise in the church, we feel that now was the time for us to bow out.

In the words of Frank Bauman, the author of The Wizard of Oz, “Everything has to come to an end, sometime”. Or to quote ‘the Teacher’: “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die” (Eccl 3.1-2). Yes, there was a time to launch the College of Baptist Ministers, and now is a time to close the College of Baptist Ministers.

Everything – including every Christian group or organisation – has a limited life. Over the last fifty years of Baptist ministry I have been involved in starting up three organisations. The first was ‘Mainstream: Baptists for life and growth’, which together with Douglas MacBain I cofounded in 1978: it had a powerful influence on the Baptist denomination in the late 1970s and 1980s, but eventually it petered out. The second was the Richard Baxter Institute for Ministry (later renamed Ministry Today UK), which together with some friends I founded in 1994: it published Ministry Today, at the time the only British interdenominational journal devoted to the practice of ministry, but that folded in 2018. Then, as you know, in 2013 along with my friend Paul Goodliff we launched the College of Baptist Ministry with a concern for the well-being of Baptist ministers, and that too will formally close next year.

Compared to beginnings endings are not easy. Beginnings are often marked by a sense of excitement, while a sense of loss and sadness often accompany endings. That is true of the College of Baptist Ministers, for we have not been able to achieve all that we had set out to do. But then, is that not true of life in general? When the day comes for us to retire, for instance, there is often a sense of sadness associated with not being able to complete all that we felt God had called us to do.

Endings are part and parcel of life. The important thing is that we recognise the time to move on. In the words of the Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho, “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over”. Ellen Goodman, an American Pulitzer prize winning columnist made a similar point when she wrote: “There’s a trick to the ‘graceful exit’. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage or a relationship is over – and let it go. It means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance to our lives. It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving up, rather than out.”

As a College we want make what Goodman called a ‘graceful exit’. Rather than focus on the negatives, we want to follow Bing Crosby and “accentuate the positive”. The fact is that we do have plenty to celebrate. The monthly letters, for instance, which we sent out to our members have been much appreciated. The books we were able to publish along with the resources for pastoral care have, I believe, been significant. Over the years I have appreciated the regular opportunity to give an account of my ministry through using the CMD proforma which we developed.

As a Board we want to thank you, the members of the College, who believed in our vision and so took out a membership-subscription. As a token of our gratitude we want to send you a complimentary copy of A College of Peers, a ‘legacy’ volume of some 50,000 words in which we tell the story of the last seven years or so. However, the heart of A College of Peers consists of twenty-four of the letters we sent out to you. In addition, there are two longer ‘in memoriam’ pieces which I have written: the first on Ministry as Servant Leadership and the second on Worship seen through the lens of 1 & 2 Timothy. This is why in my previous letter I asked you to confirm with us your present address. All being well, the book will be with you by the end of February. If by chance you were to want a second copy for a friend, then please let me know by the end of December – the charge then would be £10 (including post and packing) for an additional volume! Thereupon our activities as a College cease, and all that then remains is for us to produce a final set of accounts for Companies House.

May God continue to bless you richly in your ministry


New Year’s Resolutions – a Bible Reading Plan through Luke’s Gospel

I am beginning the New Year talking about New Year’s Resolutions and share a few ideas in case they might be useful to you. I am seeking to inspire my folk to greater discipleship by presenting ten possible worthy resolutions in the hope that they might each wish to commit to a few of them. They are based on the “Day by Day” prayer attributed to Richard of Chichester in the 12th Century.
Lord Jesus Christ, Day by day
May I see you more clearly,
Love you more dearly,
And follow you more nearly.
These are the possible resolutions I am recommending.
1. Give more time to reading the Bible (see below)
2. Read a Christian book every month (I will have books for them to borrow)
3. Look for an extra way of learning (pointing them to my blog of all my past sermons at www.pbthomas.com/blog)
4. Pray the Day by Day prayer or “The Prayer of Saint Francis” every day.
5. Give more time to personal prayer and set aside some times for retreat.
6. Pray more with other Christians
7. Turn to God more in times of temptation
8. Develop your spiritual gifts
9. Work hard at sharing your faith.
10. Seek to experience more of the love and power of the Holy Spirit
To launch the idea I am reworking a sermon from nine years ago which is online here  http://pbthomas.com/blog/?p=44
To help my folk further with Bible Reading between now and Easter we will be exploring discipleship by working through Luke’s Gospel. I have created a plan of daily readings taking us through the Gospel. Each Sunday I will preach on one of the passages they will have read during the previous week.
You can download the Bible Reading Plan here
When I offered this to my previous church the response was excellent and it helped many get into the habit of daily Bible readings. I have high hopes for my current church, which includes a number of new Christians with 2 baptisms on 19th January to start the year as we mean to go on.
Do feel free to adapt these ideas in any way you like.

Who does what? Elders and Deacons

Here is an example of the distinction one church made between elders and deacons.


Every member of the church has his or her own part to play. Home Group Leaders, those working with children and young people, leaders of our adult organizations, and all who worship, witness, pray and give, make important contributions to the life of the church. The church is not a hierarchy but a community. We are not a business but a family. Our life should not consist of meetings but of friendships. We need to engender a sense of solidarity and inclusiveness within the church so that everyone feels they belong and are loved.

At times confusion has arisen over who is actually “in charge” of things in our church life. In principle, God is! Our church and all its events and activities are controlled by the Church Meeting, which seeks by prayer and discussion to discover and follow God’s will. For the day to day running of the church, this authority of the Church Meeting is delegated to Minister, Elders and Deacons, following patterns found in the New Testament especially in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. The Minister and Elders together are called to give a lead to the church in areas of teaching, vision-building and pastoral oversight. The Deacons are called to take responsibility for finance, fabric and administration especially overseeing the organisations of the church. To remove confusion and help everybody to know who does what, this is how the principal responsibilities are distributed.

The Elders:

DIRECTION of the church, vision building, prayer life;
SERVICES, timings, worship styles, teaching, special services;
HOMEGROUPS oversight, selecting leaders, study materials;
PASTORAL CARE of members, congregation and contacts;

CHURCH DISCIPLINE, recommending additions and deletions;

RELATIONSHIPS with other churches;

STAFF: workload and use of ministry time, pastoral care of staff (Minister FT, Youth Worker FT, Outreach Worker PT, Administrator PT, Children’s Worker (intern), Cleaner .

The Deacons:

FINANCE, fundraising, special projects, mission support, administration of finance;
PREMISES, maintenance, finance, permission for use, Health and Safety, cleaners;
EQUIPMENT, maintenance, development, finance;

ADULT ORGANISATIONS, leadership, patterns of activities, seasonal events etc;
YOUTH ORGANISATIONS, leadership, patterns of activities: Family Church, Youth Events and activities, GB and BB, Preschool;


The Elders and Deacons together:

MAJOR developments in any areas of the life of the church;

MAJOR long term strategy;

SELECTING STAFF: Minister, Youth Worker and others PT as above

EVANGELISM strategy, events and activities

The Minister chairs both Deacons and Elders meetings. Secretary Treasurer also have specific responsibilities in some of the areas above.

How can we make disciples?

In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

But what does making disciples mean in practice? What can churches do to make disciples? I devoted my Sabbatical in 2008 to exploring this vital issue. I studied the Scriptures, read as many books as I could find on the topic and particularly surveyed all the popular discipleship courses. As well as identifying key elements of what it means to grow as a disciple I realised some obvious but important truths. Like many other things in life, discipleship is “better caught than taught.” “Dialogue teaches the parts monologue can’t teach.” Salvation is not just individual and personal, but shared and corporate.

After a distinguished career as a performer, one famous virtuoso violinist became a professor of music. Somebody asked him what had prompted his change of career. The violinist replied: “Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise it is lost.” Similarly, we can’t learn to live the Christian life just by reading books or even by watching others. We need instruction in the “perishable art” of Christian living. We need to be Making Disciples One-to-One. I summed up everything I had been learning in a book with that title, creating resources for making disciples which I could use myself and which a number of other churches have also been using since.

I had written the first course “Making Disciples One-to-One for New Christians” twenty years earlier. It contains notes and Bible readings for a new Christian meeting with a mature Christian for Bible Study and prayer. Wherever possible my churches have run such a course for new Christians, often as part of preparation for Believer’s Baptism, either one-to-one or in a small group. The eight sessions cover the following topics.


  1. A new life has begun
  2. Being sure of our salvation
  3. Getting to know God
  4. Belonging to the family
  5. Playing your part
  6. Tug of war
  7. Go and tell
  8. The Holy Spirit – the Helper


Then there is a chapter to help and encourage established Christians to meet to pray and study together in pairs or threes in “Spiritual Friendships.” Many churches encourage these kind of prayer partnerships, and some call it peer-mentoring.

Two thirds of the book is a longer course in discipleship for mature Christians called Fan the Flame. Each unit of five studies is designed for personal study over a week or two weeks. Each study contains notes, Bible readings, questions to consider and a “something to do” which is a practical activity exploring the theme. At the end of each unit the Participant meets with a Guide to discuss and pray about what they have been learning. Over two churches I have been the Guide for more than twenty of my folk, especially key leaders, and some who have completed Fan the Flame have then served as Guides for others. These are the 25 studies across the five units which I think provide a balanced and at times stretching course on discipleship.

1) Knowing God better

  1. a) Loving God and enjoying your relationship with God
    b) Devotional Bible reading and understanding the Bible, doctrine and ethics
    c) Worship
    d) Your devotional prayer life
    e) Intercessory prayer

2) Becoming like Jesus

  1. a) Repentance and Holiness
    b) Christian Victory and Overcoming Temptation
    c) The Renewed Mind
    d) The Fruit of the Spirit and Mastering your Emotions
    e) Total surrender to the Lordship of Christ

3) Living in Christ’s body

  1. a) Amazing Grace! Forgiving yourself
    b) Forgiving other people – wounds needing healing
    c) Loving other Christians and sorting out relationships
    d) Church – Living in Fellowship and Community
    e) Belonging and Accountability

4) Becoming a servant

  1. a) The Cross as our example of sacrifice
    b) Serving in the church
    c) Being a faithful Steward
    d) Loving our neighbour
    e) Our Witness to the World

5) Be filled with the Spirit

  1. a) Sharing Christ’s resurrection life – the empowering Spirit
    b) The gifts of the Holy Spirit – Serving in God’s strength
    c) Signs and wonders – the surprising Spirit
    d) Passion for God
    e) “Be filled with the Spirit” – experiencing the Holy Spirit

All ministers long for our flocks to grow in Christian maturity, service and witness. But this doesn’t just happen automatically. We have to do everything we can to help our people to grow in their discipleship.

Making Disciples One-to-One 2008 Paperback ISBN: 9781844265411 is out of print but I still have a few copies available. email peter@pbthomas.com

Ministry Today UK Legacy Volumes are now available as PDFs

For 24 years and 72 issues, Ministry Today (later Ministry Today UK) was the only interdenominational professional journal on the practice of Christian Ministry in the UK. It remains an invaluable resource for ministers in pastorate, in sector ministries and in training. In 2018 Ministry Today UK closed leaving a legacy of wisdom and experience in 512 stimulating articles from a breadth of contributors covering almost every aspect of ministry in practice. At the request of the Board of Ministry Today UK, The College of Baptist Ministers republished all those articles in eight volumes. Hard copies are now available from copyright libraries and in many theological libraries. But now in response to requests we are also making the volumes available as PDF files.


To help you find your way around this cornucopia of resources there is a study guide listing many of the key articles according to 57 themes, arranged alphabetically.  This is followed by a general index to all the articles and authors.

You can download the Study Guide and Comprehensive Index  completely free here.

Ministry Today UK Study Guide and Index PDF


From the limited print run all the paper copies of the Legacy Volumes have now been sold and reprinting will be uneconomical. In response to requests we are happy to make the PDF files of those volumes available. All 512 articles in 8 volumes making over 2900 pages of distilled insight, wisdom and experience, in completely searchable PDF files: the price for this invaluable resource is only £10.00 for the set of 8 volumes. That is less than 2p for each article!


Order by email to our Treasurer peter@collegeofbaptistministers.com paying by bank transfer to

“The College of Baptist Ministers”   Barclays Witham Branch        
Sort Code  20-97-40           Account Number 63038378

Alternatively send a cheque for £10.00 payable to the College of Baptist Ministers together with your email address

CBM Treasurer, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW

We will send the PDF files to your email address straight away.

The files will be yours to read, search and quote or cut and paste as you like. We trust ministers to respect copyright and not to pass the files on to other people but rather encourage their friends to purchase their own copies.

We know that many ministers will be happy to have their own copies of the articles to be able to access on all their devices at any time and anywhere. However CBM are continuing to keep the Ministry Today UK website live so all the articles will remain online together with 24 years of  book reviews.

Visit https://www.ministrytoday.org.uk/

Retirement Matters for Ministers

The new book by Paul Beasley-Murray ISBN 978-1-9165035-0-2

Order your copy from the College of Baptist Ministers – £5 plus £2 Postage and Packing. Details below.

What experiences do Baptist Ministers have of retirement?

This report brings together the analysis of 53 responses to a detailed questionnaire and 17 extensive face-to-face interviews.
Issues explored include experience of ministry, transition to retirement, housing, finance, health, friendships, family and ministry in retirement. Ministers answered openly questions about their experiences of relationships with the local church, with other ministers, with their Association and with the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
The report discusses whether more could be done to support our retired “heroes of faith” and at the same time whether their wisdom and experience could be used more widely in our churches and Associations.

Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray is now enjoying retirement after more than 43 years in Baptist ministry in long pastorates in Altrincham and Chelmsford. He also served as a short-term missionary in the Congo and as Principal of Spurgeon’s College.
Published in 2018 by The College of Baptist Ministers.

TO ORDER YOUR COPY at £5 plus £2 postage and packing.


Order by email giving your name and postal address to our Treasurer peter@pbthomas.com  paying by bank transfer to

“The College of Baptist Ministers”   Barclays Witham Branch        
Sort Code  20-97-40           Account Number 63038378

Alternatively send a cheque payable to the College of Baptist Ministers together with your name and postal address to

CBM Treasurer, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW


Three ideas for outreach this Christmas

As November begins and we begin to think about how we can celebrate Christmas as an outreach opportunity let me offer three simple ideas which you may well already use but need preparation now to be ready in time.

  1. Helping your congregation to send Christian Christmas Cards

Giving or sending Christian cards to family and friends, neighbours and colleagues can be a powerful witness and open up opportunities for spiritual conversations about the real meaning of Christmas. But it can be very difficult to find a good range of Christmas cards which show a nativity scene or refer to Jesus in any way. Our nearest Christian bookshop is a 50-mile round trip and few Christians will make the effort to order cards online.

So for the last 32 years early in November I have bought boxed sets of Christian Christmas cards. Even in my small church I will spend around £100 this year on these. Before the end of this month I will have set up a table in the church. I split up the boxed sets and charge the same price of 20p for each separate card and envelope, which means that I pretty much break even overall.

The card table will be out for our all-age family Christmas Crafts Afternoon. There we have crafts to MAKE including Cards, Calendars, Pictures, and Gifts such as keyrings and fridge magnets. We also have stalls to BUY Cards, Books, Pictures, Gifts and Jewellery. All with seasonal refreshments of course. Then the Christian Christmas cards will also be available at our Christingle Service, our Carols by Candlelight Service and our ever popular Carols and Cake (where we all sit around choosing our favourite carols and eating cake). The cards are also out for people to buy at Toddler Group and Drop in as well as at our weekly Haven Café. I use any cards which are unsold at Christmas to give myself to my congregation and fringe contacts.

  1. The Greatest Christmas Present – a booklet you can give away.

This simple booklet weaves together the Bible text of the nativity stories from the royalty-free NET Bible with my own reflections on Christmas. It was produced for us to give away to our fringe contacts at Toddlers, Drop In and Haven Café, for visitors to our Christmas services and events, and for members to give to their friends and neighbours and colleagues.  We bought 1000 and in bulk they cost just 20p each. You are very welcome to print your own copies, or use the idea (and any of the content you like) to produce your own version. Just remember to include the copyright notices. More details and a PDF of the booklet are online at


  1. Church Christmas cards to deliver

I have just finished designing the card which we deliver to our community during December as well as circulating among our contacts. With an attractive nativity image it advertises all our special services and lists our regular activities as well as giving our contact details and the all-important church website address. It contains a Christmas message and also offers everybody two free gifts. The first is a copy of the NIV New Testament (99p each if you buy in bulk) for anybody who wants one, and we have had folk contact us requesting us to deliver a copy to their house. The second gift is our little booklet The Greatest Christmas Present described above.

We will order either 2500 or 5000 of these cards from www.print24.co.uk which will cost between 3p and 4p each. I have given more details and examples of the artwork we have used in past years at


Church Christmas Cards to deliver

Each Christmas we create a card from the church. We give it to all our church contacts, Toddler Group, Drop In, Haven Cafe customers etc and I encourage all our members to give copies to all their friends and neighbours. With a print run of either 2500 or 5000 we deliver all the rest to local homes.

Printed backed on A4 folded to A5 on glossy 250 gsm card they stand as attractive Christmas cards. We use www.print24.co.uk. Price this year will be £100 for 2500 or £160 for 5000 copies, delivered in a week. Every year we have Christmas visitors to our services and events in response to the leaflets and we believe that the Christmas message inside also helps many to remember the real meaning of Christmas.

To give you an idea of the kinds of things we do, here are some examples. I hope you will find the idea helpful.


The Greatest Christmas Present – a booklet you can give away

“Read the wonderful story of the greatest Christmas present of all — God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ.”

It is hard to find an inexpensive booklet to give away widely which explains the meaning of Christmas. So I created one. In 24 pages it combines the Christmas stories from the royalty-free NET Bible with reflections on Christmas and a simple gospel message. Produced in bulk they cost just 20p each (using www.print24.co.uk) to give to Toddler Groups, Drop In and  Cafe Customers as well as for our church members to give away to their friends and neighbours and even include with Christmas cards to send to their families.

Feel free to print copies or adapt to your own situation. You will need to find a suitable front cover image. Please remember to include the NET Bible copyright information from the inside back cover and if you include bits I have written then also my copyright information from the same page.

I pray that this will be useful to you.

The booklet can be downloaded as a PDF file here The Greatest Christmas Present BOOK 4 PDF