One of the greatest challenges in church leadership is that of raising-up new pastors. There was a time when a young man would grow up in a church, attend four years of college (usually a Christian school), go right into Seminary and then straight into ministry. Though some still follow that sequence, most come through a different pattern and often times with little Church of ministry experience. This has caused Church leaders to get creative in their thinking and realize that healthy churches could probably bless the Kingdom by those called into ministry actual “intern” type experiences on their way to leading a Church. We asked Element Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming to share with us the program they are implementing, and hope it will foster some thinking in all of our minds as to how we might be instrumental in preparing ministry workers for the Kingdom.
-Supt. Steve Strutz
For a little over a year now we have been working on developing a residency program here at Element Church for the purpose of developing the next generation of pastors. We are driven by a strong conviction that the best place for future pastors to receive coaching and experience is in the context of a local church. I want to share with you the reasons why we’ve developed this program, the nuts and bolts of the program, and the benefits this type of program has for the Kingdom of God.
Why start a residency program? One of the big holes we’ve recognized in a growing church is the lack of potential staff members who not only have a calling to ministry and some education, but also experience in ministry. One statistic we have heard from Christian Universities is that up to 75% of ministry students who graduate with a ministry degree are no longer in ministry after five years. These issues burden us greatly on the local church level. Christian education on a collegiate level is crucial, but we believe strongly that coaching and experience on the local church level is just as crucial. A long-term Residency Program gives us the platform to invest into future pastors and give them the opportunity to gain experience and even make mistakes in the process without the full weight of ministry on their shoulders.
What are the nuts and bolts of the program? The residency is a two-year, full-time, post-college leadership development program for emerging leaders who feel called to vocational church ministry. Here are some of the details on how we structure the program:
We make recruiting visits in the fall semester to Christian Universities where we have connections. During these visits, we get into classrooms and pitch our program, seeking to interview potential residents.
We bring out residents for a final interview on site that we are serious about hiring for a two-year residency.
A resident coach, from our staff, is assigned to the resident to coach them and give them the training, opportunities, and feedback they need to have a successful residency.
Residents are recruited for a specific role on our staff, for example as a Resident Worship Pastor. This department of our church must be healthy in order to invest into a resident.
As the local church, we pay the resident a monthly stipend of $500 per month, as well as provide housing for the resident through a host home from our congregation. We also provide each resident with a computer, as an incentive to stick it out, the resident gets to keep that computer as their own if they complete at least 18 months of the program.
At the 18-month mark, the resident is given the freedom to begin looking for full-time employment in a local church.
What are the benefits of a residency program for the kingdom of God? In many ways, healthy pastors equal healthy churches. A residency program gives a ministry student the opportunity to gain experience alongside an education that we believe will be crucial for the long-term health of their pastorate. As a local church, we do not view this program as a scheme for cheap labor, we view this program as an opportunity to invest into and develop the next generation of pastors. For Element Church, this is a long-term commitment that I believe will pay eternal dividends for not only Element Church, but also our denomination and the church at large.
For more information, feel free to contact me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are a partner church in the 12Stone Church Residency Program based out of Atlanta, Georgia. 12Stone Church is a Wesleyan Church that has been doing residency successfully for over ten years. For more information on this partnership, check out: www.churchresidency.com.
Pastor Andy Hazelet