More about Gateways into Worship

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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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