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Education and Learning

Education and Learning

The Education & Learning Committee maintains strategic oversight of adult learning in the United Reformed Church. The Committee does this by keeping in close contact with relevant officers in Synods, by supporting four Resource Centres for Learning, by providing the Training for Learning and Serving (TLS) range of courses, and by maintaining positive relationships with ecumenical partners. Through careful combinations of finance and personnel, the Committee supports the initial and ongoing professional development of Ministers of Word and Sacraments, Church Related Community Workers, Assembly-Accredited Lay Preachers, and other lay ministries including Eldership.

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What courses are available?

A. Introductory Course - You, the Bible, God and Worship
AIM: To provide a basic introduction to studying theology with a purpose in mind.

Unit 1: Beginning where you are
Unit 2: And so to worship
Unit 3: Reflecting on experience – an old and new habit

B. Getting to grips with the Bible
AIM: To provide helpful and practical approaches to understanding the Bible.

INGREDIENTS: 5 Units, 1 Study Day
Unit 1: Looking at the Library (A trip around the Bible)
Unit 2: The Story of Bibilical Times
Unit 3: Language and Literature in the Bible
Unit 4: Analysing the Bible
Unit 5: Who Says? - Authority 

C. Talking about God
AIM: To stimulate faith through thinking and talking about God.

INGREDIENTS: 5 Units, 1 Study Day
Unit 1: God
Unit 2: Jesus
Unit 3: Holy Spirit
Unit 4: Saviour
Unit 5: Lord

D. Leading Worship
AIM: To help to apply the Bible and theology in the design and conduct of worship.

INGREDIENTS: 10 Units, 2 Study Days
Unit 1: Worship and relationship
Unit 2: Worshippers’ expectations and needs
Unit 3: The Bible – in preparation for worship
Unit 4: The Bible – in worship
Unit 5: Hymns, songs, psalms, music – in preparation and worship
Unit 6: Leading prayers – background and understanding
Unit 7: Leading prayers – immediacy and practicalities
Unit 8: Worshipping in different ways and different places
Unit 9: Compiling a complete service – in groups
Unit 10: Worship together and review

E. God’s Word for Today
AIM: To help to proclaim God’s word and make it relevant.

INGREDIENTS: 5 Units, 1 Study Day
Unit 1: ‘In sincerity and truth’
Unit 2: Getting off to a good start
Unit 3: ‘Keep right on to the end of the road’
Unit 4: ‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish’
Unit 5: Listening for the Word of God

F. Valuing Community Experiences
AIM: To promote and enable community development understandings, skills and values within the context of faith.

INGREDIENTS: 10 Units, 2 Study Days
Unit 1: The Need for Community & Community Work
Unit 2: Models of Community Work
Unit 3: Discerning Needs and Opportunities in the Community
Unit 4: Linking Faith & Community Work
Unit 5: Group Work
Unit 6: Working With a Community Group
Unit 7: Discrimination, Equality and Power
Unit 8: Evaluation & Reflection
Unit 9: Communication
Unit 10: Developing Self Esteem & Confidence

How demanding are the courses?

LITE courses are aimed to be accessible to all. While there is some ‘home’ reading and reflection to be completed, study groups offer an opportunity to explore further the material in the units. In addition, two approaches may be taken to LITE - BASIC and PLUS.

Taking the Basic approach to any LITE course you will:

  • study the same materials as others on the same course
  • engage in the same study groups
  • attend the same study days
  • be expected to participate in a self-appraisal process.

On this approach

  •  Assignments are usually voluntary. However if you are seeking local/Synod recognition as a Lay Preacher (see below) your Synod may require completion of assignments which will be assessed locally.

LITE+PLUS differs in two ways:

  • Formal registration is required using the form for which there is a link below. Please note that this may be in addition to any registration process arranged locally.
  • Each course has a mandatory assignment which is different to that required in the Basic approach, and which will be assessed centrally by TLS. You will need to gain a pass grade in this work if you wish to progress to the next stage of your studies.

However, the assignments are constructed so as to offer opportunity for responses in which there is a limited requirement in the use of words and the possibility of a wider use of expression, for example through artistic media.

What’s involved?

A LITE course will typically include:

Study Units
These are designed to take about an evening’s work at home, and contain up to three exercises to help your private learning, together with the preparation of exercises for the study group. The units include essential reading, although we do suggest books for those who want to delve further.

Study Groups
These are sessions of about two hours in a local group with a tutor-facilitator, doing further work on what has been covered in the preceding unit.

Study Days
Typically running from 10am-4pm, the Days concentrate on practical work and discussion in a larger forum.

For each course except Introductory, course members are asked to write a self-appraisal reflecting on how they feel they are developing through the course.

Assessed Work
For each course except Introductory, course members are assessed on certain practical work and depending on both personal inclination and chosen purpose, one written task. LITE courses may be completed without submitting written work.

Why take up LITE?

There are many reasons for choosing to embark on a LITE course:           LITE Units Introduction

For personal spiritual growth
LITE is a tool for helping people to develop in their own spirituality and discipleship.

The applied learning approach, the content of the units and the group encounters all encourage personal reflection and growth.

For this purpose, particular courses may be selected as appropriate if an individual does not want to tackle them all. Additionally, the units may be used for personal study, although from experience, the opportunity for group encounter is crucial to getting the best out of LITE.

For enriching leading and experiencing worship
LITE is a tool for:

  • those who are called on to plan and/or lead worship in their own congregations or clusters/groups
  • those who just want to learn more about worship and its background
  • those who would welcome some ‘refresher’ opportunities.
  • those who seek recognition or accreditation as lay preachers. If your objective is either of these, the approach you take will be determined by whether you are seeking Local Recognition or Assembly Accreditation.

LITE Units offer the standard that the United Reformed Church sees as a minimum if you are seeking to be a Locally Recognised Lay Preacher. For this recognition it is normally recommended that five courses should be tackled in the following order:

  • Introductory Course: You, the Bible, God and Worship
  • Getting to Grips with the Bible
  • Talking about God
  • Leading Worship
  • God's Word for Today

The final authority for determining the requirements for local/Synod recognition as a Lay Preacher rests with the Synod and it will be wise to consult your Synod Lay Preaching Commissioner or Training Officer before embarking upon LITE studies with this purpose in mind.

Completing the following LITE Units is the first stage in a three year process if you are seeking to become an Assembly-accredited Lay Preacher in the United Reformed Church.

  • Introductory Course: You, the Bible, God and Worship
  • Getting to Grips with the Bible
  • Talking about God
  • Leading Worship

Completion of these modules will need to be followed by completion of the TLS One-year course Gateways into Worship and completion of a year of mentored reflective practice.

Please note that, as the final authority for Lay Preaching Recognition or Accreditation rests outside of TLS, completing relevant courses provides the grounds for an application but is not a guarantee of its acceptance.

For community work
LITE is a tool for:

  • Volunteers already involved with church-based community service, projects or activities. e.g. Luncheon Clubs, Toddler Groups, Neighbourhood Projects, 
  • Ministers of Word & Sacraments involved with community work as part of their ministry.
  • Those interested in knowing more about or becoming active in Community Work, especially using Community Development principles.

If you are studying with the aim of simply understanding more about Church-related Community Work, a BASIC approach will be adequate and it is recommended, though not mandatory, that you tackle the courses on:

  • Getting to Grips with the Bible
  • Talking about God

before you embark on the Valuing Community Experiences course.

If you are studying with the aim of becoming more fully equipped in Church-related Community Work, a LITE+PLUS approach will be necessary which includes the following courses:

  • Introductory Course: You, the Bible, God and Worship
  • Getting to Grips with the Bible
  • Talking about God
  • Valuing Community Experiences

Completion of these modules will need to be followed by completion of the TLS One-year course Developing Community Experiences and completion of a year of mentored reflective practice.

For other areas of service
A similar pattern of study may be agreed with the LITE Course Manager for the following areas of discipleship and ministry:

  • Pastoral Care
  • Prayer
  • Evangelism
  • Other Faiths

For candidating for ordained or commissioned ministry
LITE+PLUS may be used to acquire the basic qualifications necessary to candidate for ordained or commissioned ministry where you do not already meet the pre-candidating education criteria. This will involve completion of:

  • Introductory Course: You, the Bible, God and Worship
  • Getting to Grips with the Bible
  • Talking about God

Followed by:

  • Either Leading Worship
  • Or Valuing Community Experiences.

Individuals will then complete one of the TLS One year courses on Pathway 2. They will undertake a further assignment set by the Education & Learning Committee and assessed by one of the Resource Centres for Learning during the candidating process.

How do I get started?

TLS Lite courses are locally organised and run and so are flexible according to your circumstances. Here are the essentials of setting up a course:                                                                  Starting a LITE Group

  • Begin by asking around and bringing together people who may be interested. The obvious place to start is in your local church(es) but your Synod Training and Development Officer or TLS Regional Organiser may know of other interested people local enough to join with you so you should make early contact with them. Some courses have run with only one student and some with more than 20, 6 to 10 seems to be ideal.

  • Consult your Training and Development Officer or TLS Regional Organiser about a tutor. It does not have to be a minister but you will need somebody with the time and inclination to read around and expand on the course notes and tutor guidelines. They will need some skills & knowledge in leading small groups but this does not have to be extensive as the guidelines provide a lot of help. Using more than one leader can help to spread the commitment.

  • Once the group & tutor are set up, agreement is needed about venues, dates and times.
    • People’s homes or church meeting rooms are both possible venues.
    • Weekly meetings can be a bit of a strain for those with already busy lives; monthly can seem too long a gap; fortnightly may prove the best – but decisions on this are definitely local decisions.
    • On the times of the sessions – the recommendation is 2 hours; and some of the courses have study days with both morning and afternoon sessions.
  • Decide which course to begin with. From September 2016 there are two ways of studying on TLS Lite - BASIC LITE and LITE+PLUS. The two are differentiated by the outcomes that individuals are working towards and more information is given regarding these in the booklets. Course Members following both ways may study in the same LITE group together as they study the same material, however if any participants wish to study on LITE+PLUS in your group, you will need to complete some courses in a particular order beginning with the Introductory Module.

  • Obtain the course material direct from United Reformed Church House. Individual student booklets (£4.50) and a tutor guideline (£1 to £2.50) are available for each course:
    By post: 86 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RT
    Phone: 0207 916 2020
    Order online:

  • LITE+PLUS participants will need to register for each course using the form in the booklets or provided here. Synods will record the details of those participating in BASIC LITE through their own system.

  • When each course is finished, complete a feedback sheet. This helps to improve the course for future students, and comes with the bonus that a certificate is sent to every student who has attended all the sessions once the feedback is received.

  • Your Synod may well be able to help with any further queries. Or contact the TLS LITE Course Manager details below.

Other than for LITE+PLUS students, LITE courses do not need to be registered. However for purposes of quality control it will be helpful for us to know who is doing what courses and how they have gone. We would be extremely grateful therefore if at the end of this course ONE person from the group would complete the evaluation form at the end of this booklet and return it as requested. Pro-forma certificates will be provided for all members of the group on receipt of this form.

If you have any queries about the running of these courses please contact:

Philippa Linton
Education & Learning Office
020 7916 8635

TLS 1 Year button

The aims of the course are:

  1. To equip worship leaders and preachers and those involved in creating and leading worship.

  2. To encourage those who wish to explore Christian worship, either individually or in groups, worshipping in the widest range of contexts and settings

  3. To complete the preferred training pathway for those seeking URC Assembly Lay Preacher accreditation.

What’s in the course?

The syllabus is organised into three Terms each having five Study Units.  Attendance at local study groups and residential weekends are required.


Term A – Christian Worship – Understanding Worship


At the end of this term you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of what worship is, including its key elements, taking into consideration reflection upon its biblical, historical and theological contexts with the ability to apply this when participating in, preparing or leading worship.
  • Reflect upon experiences in preparing worship of different styles and based on various themes, using the lectionary and other resources, with early evidence of the development of skills in the preparation and delivery of sermons relevant to specific contexts.
  • Display understanding of the influence of personality on the way people worship and the use of this knowledge in the preparation of worship and the construction of sermons.
  • Show evidence of reflection upon their own spiritual journey over the duration of the module and the application of insights gained to engagement in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the programme.

Unit A1:                What is worship?
Unit A2:                Patterns of worship?
Unit A3:                Resources for worship?
Unit A4:                Themes for worship?
Unit A5:                People and personality in worship?


Term B Christian Worship – Resources for Worship


At the end of this term you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the place of the Bible in worship, according to how it has developed in different traditions with the capacity to use it reflectively and appropriately in preparing and conducting worship, including sermons.
  • Show understanding of the functions of liturgy and its various components with competency in its development and use for a variety of worship contexts.
  • Reflect upon, construct and evaluate sermons with different styles,purposes and structures relevant to the context in which they will be preached.
  • Demonstrate awareness and appreciation of different types of prayers and their use within worship, employing such knowledge in using prayer resources or constructing prayers appropriate to given contexts.
  • Use experience gained in selecting hymns and music for worship to construct worship that is accessible, holistic and relevant.
  • Display competency in reflecting critically and contextually in theological matters as they relate to the content and conduct of worship.

Unit B1:               Starting with the Bible
Unit B2:               Shaping the Service
Unit B3:               Getting the message
Unit B4:               Depths of prayer (1)
Unit B5:               Messages in words


Term C Christian Worship – Creating Worship


At the end of this term you will be able to:

  • Reflect on different types of and different approaches to worship and apply a range of relevant and developed skills in preparing and conducting worship for a variety of contexts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to employ creative thinking in the preparation and conduct of worship combining understanding of foundational principles and awareness of current contexts and cultures.
  • Show competency in preparing, selecting and where appropriate creating prayers, story and aspects of movement and visual image for use within worship.
  • Display awareness of some contemporary issues that churches need to address and how to embrace such issues as part of the whole worship life of a church.
  • Show understanding of special worship occasions and how to conduct them.

Unit C1:                Making it memorable
Unit C2:                Depths of prayer (2)
Unit C3:                Depths of prayer (3)
Unit C4:                Issues to face
Unit C5:                Services and outcomes



How the course works?

The course lasts for one year, with an intake each September.

The application deadline is 31 May.

Home Study Units

There are 15 Units in the course, each including exercises to be done at home and suggested reading material. There is also preparation of exercises to be discussed at the Local Study Group. Each needs about 5½ hours of study. Sometimes Home Study Units include work to be done in conjunction with the Support Network.

Local Study Group

Ideally, each course member will attend a Local Study Group meeting six times a term with a voluntary, trained Local Tutor and a few other students. The Group provides an opportunity to share what has been discovered and prepared in home study, to take part in a workshop based on verbal reports from each course member about their projects, and to discuss reading.

Although there are only five Home Study Units a Term, there are six meetings because experience has shown the value of one meeting with no set agenda.

Where possible, Local Study Groups are set up so that not more than an hour’s travelling each way is involved. However, because course members can be widely spread geographically, this is not always practical. There are three alternatives:

  • Where for good reason a course member does not have course colleagues with whom he or she can work locally, the course member and Local Tutor will meet, with members of the Support Network attending in turn. In this way the minimum of three people present will provide an adequate group dynamic.
  • A course member may choose to travel further. If necessary this possibility should be raised with the Course Manager in your initial conversations.
  • Three regional Study Days can be held each term, where folk travel from a wider area and deal with two Home Study Units at a time.

Practical Work

Each course member is expected to undertake three practical projects during the course, normally chosen from the following options:

  • Preaching – At least three sermons will be preached at public worship, not including preaching arranged at course weekends.
  • Leading Public Worship – The equivalent of leading at least three whole services, except for the sermon. Work may be spread over a larger number of services, with leadership shared at each.
  • Leading Alternative Worship – The equivalent of leading at least three one-hour sessions of worship of an alternative nature.
  • Leading all-age Worship – Ideally, leading three whole services at which all ages are present. Alternatively, one full service plus four occasions of leading the part of the service when children are present.
  • Leading Worship in a particular environment – e.g., hospital, school, care home. Three acts of worship are conducted in the chosen setting. This project will normally be selected by those anticipating some future form of chaplaincy role.

Three occasions for each project must be led by the course member. For Lay Preaching candidates however, there are additional requirements. They are required to fulfil the Preaching option, in which they must deliver six sermons, and the Leading Public Worship option but may choose among the other possibilities for their final option.

Project work normally occurs with an ‘attachment’ congregation organised through Lay Preaching Commissioners at the start of the course. The person in pastoral charge of the attachment congregation facilitates the planning of project events in the life of the attachment church.

Near the end of the course, students who will be seeking Lay Preaching accreditation are required to lead and preach at an ‘assessed service’ where a TLS appointed assessor will be present. Synods are encouraged to use this occasion for their own assessment process prior to considering requests for accreditation.

N.B. It will be necessary for the student to undergo a DBS check to engage in the practical work on this course.

Support Network

The Support Network consists of up to five people interested in the course member’s progress and willing to offer encouragement and advice. They are selected by the course member who may consult with local church leaders and/or the Course Manager to help choose appropriate people.

The Support Network has various responsibilities which are outlined in Guidelines provided for them. Additionally, a regional event is usually organised by the Regional Organiser to familiarise them with TLS in general and with their role in particular.

Primarily however, their role is to offer encouragement, prayer support and care during the course. This will include certain formal tasks such as completing appraisals and, as feasible, observing and feeding back upon the course members engagement in their practical work, but it is in their ongoing interest and support that they are most valuable.

Residential Weekends and Introductory Day

Course members are required to attend the Introductory Day and three Residential Weekends during the year. These are mandatory and because TLS is not merely a correspondence course there is absolutely no flexibility on the requirement, although some allowance is made for emergency absences.

For many course members, Residential Weekends are the highlight of their time on TLS. Lasting from Friday supper to Sunday lunch they provide the opportunity for learning and sharing together with two or three residential staff and fellow course members. The programmes include study, worship, sharing and socialising. The style is interactive and work is often done in groups.


Weekend dates, locations and nominal catchment areas are listed below.

Please note these dates are only provisional and may be altered at a later stage. Final dates will be provided in the enrolment letter.

2018-2019 Academic Year

9 - 11 November 2018           Cambridge          Westminster College
22 - 24 March 2019               Cambridge          Westminster College
7 - 9 June 2019                    Cambridge          Westminster College

2019 - 2020 Academic Year

15 - 17 November 2019           Cambridge          Westminster College
6 - 8  March 2020               Cambridge          Westminster College
5 - 7 June 2020                    Cambridge          Westminster College



For those on Pathway 1 essential reading is contained in the Home Study Units although folk may add to their reading by choosing from the booklist provided. For those on Pathway 2 additional required reading may be indicated in the units.

Written Work

Written work comes in two basic forms but the requirements vary according to the Pathway the course member chooses to follow.


For those on Pathway 1 assignments in the form of Project Reflections and a Worship Review are required but they are reviewed rather than marked. Essays are not required. On Pathway 2 Essays, Project Reflections and a Worship Review are required and are marked.


All course members are required to write a Journal. Each entry is related to parts of the course and the requirements are specified. Appraisal contributions from the Support Network and the Local Tutor are included.

Why study this course?

There are a number of reasons for engaging in Gateways into Worship

  • Personal interest, to develop your understanding and effectiveness in your Christian discipleship.
  • To be better equipped and therefore more effective in leading worship.
  • To gain United Reformed Church Assembly-accreditation as Lay Preacher.
  • To explore callings to other forms of recognised ministry within the United Reformed Church.

NB: For some of these objectives you will need to have completed prior study either on TLS LITE or an equivalent programme of theological education.

What’s this about Pathways?

As already implied, TLS courses may be studied at different levels and for different purposes, which, for ease of understanding, we summarise in two Pathways.

PATHWAY 1 – Enriching Faith

  • This Pathway is primarily about helping people to deepen their personal spirituality and discipleship
  • Most courses may be enrolled on without prior completion of any other TLS course or any other formal qualification.
  • For enrolment on Gateways into Worship however, you need to be able to demonstrate previous experience in conducting Christian worship in formal settings, evidenced by written confirmation from your local minister or other significant church officer.
  • Formally assessed assignments are not required although some written work needs to be submitted and feedback is given on it.
  • Those who successfully complete this Pathway receive a TLS Enriching Faith Certificate but more importantly they will reap the benefits of invigorated personal spirituality and discipleship.

PATHWAY 2 – Equipping for Service

  • This Pathway focuses upon vocational skills and ministries.
  • It requires either
    o   prior completion of the TLS Foundation Course on Pathway 2 (now no longer available)
    o   or completion of the core modules on TLS LITE
    o   or completion of prior theological study equivalent to the TLS Foundation course, with equivalence determined on a case by case basis by the TLS Board of Studies on application.
  • Those who successfully complete this Pathway receive a TLS Equipping for Service Certificate but more importantly they will be equipped to serve in specific Christian ministries.
  • It is the primary route for those seeking Assembly Accreditation as a Lay Preacher in the United Reformed Church.

To embark upon Gateways into Worship the Course Member must by the 30 September of the first academic year:

  • Be over 18 years old.
  • Have engaged in a conversation with a TLS Regional Organiser or Course Manager who will informally assess their suitability to engage in TLS study.
  • Where English is not a Course Member’s first language, ability to address the written work component of the modules must be demonstrated
    o   Either by producing evidence of previous Higher Education learning in which written assignments were a significant component.
    o   Or by completing and gaining a pass for a 1000 word reflection on a question pertinent to the course to be determined by the TLS Board of Studies.

Prospective students will be asked during their enrolment process to identify the Pathway upon which they wish to proceed. Firm decisions about Pathways will need to be made by 14 September of the relevant academic year. It is possible to move from Pathway 2 to Pathway 1, However any student seeking to move from Pathway 1 to Pathway 2 will need to recommence the course in a subsequent academic year.


Please note that TLS reserves the right to alter the content and/or requirements of any course without prior notice to its participants. This will only happen in circumstances of absolute necessity as TLS prefers to operate consultatively on such matters but it does mean that should circumstances demand it, variations from the information provided here may arise.

What does it cost?

The United Reformed Church operates a policy of encouraging lay development, at the same time as ensuring sustainable provision of learning opportunities. So in the case of TLS one-year courses the staffing costs are provided from Assembly funds whilst student fees go towards the costs of residential weekends and study days.

The individual fee for Gateways into Worship in 2018/19 is £650. There is considerable help towards covering the cost:

  • URC members are given £100 off the fee on the commendation of their church
  • Synods have set aside funds to put towards the fees, which Regional Organisers can explain more about.
  • TLS has a central bursary fund which is available for student in cases of need

TLS is therefore a partnership between the student, their local church, their Synod, and the Assembly Education and Learning Committee.


How do I get started?

Enrolment for beginning TLS One-year Courses in the following September starts on 1 January and ends on 31 May. An application form should be sent to the TLS Coordinator between those dates.

Following receipt of the application, you will be contacted by one of the TLS staff within four weeks. If you are not please let the TLS Coordinator (details below) know.

If you have any queries about the running of these courses please first contact:

Philippa Linton
Education & Learning Office
020 7916 8635


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