Stuck on Residency? Here are Three Guiding Principles

The title for this post could be “You Should Start a Residency Program at Your Church Even if You Aren’t Ready” because I know some great churches who keep putting off pulling the trigger.

I blogged here before about the importance of residency, and why churches should move beyond short internships. Recently, I’ve had a few conversations with church leaders that I know would be great providing oversight to a resident leader, but they simply couldn’t get approval from their executive teams. “We’re not quite ready,” is the typical response.

If you answer yes to the following questions I think you church is the type of church that should jump in:

Is our church advancing?
Is our church a place where I believe someone could learn best practices for ministry?
Do I have a staff member who has proven they are a developer of people?

Let’s face it, you can talk about it, write some sort of curriculum, and try and engineer out all of the issues. But guess what you’ll be doing at the end of the first year of residency? You can guess that you'll be changing and tweaking it! So don’t spend too much time on isolated development because you will have gaps.

Church Leadership Residency is a journey. It’s one leader coaching a younger leader on how to navigate ministry. Education is linear…experience is fluid and will be forever changing based on temperament and personality of those involved.  


Since “activator” is in my top five of Strength Finders, allow me to help push the topic by offering simple concepts of how to do get a residency going:

1. Start Small. I think one idea that keeps churches locked up on this topic is that they study marque residency programs at massive churches (there are a couple out there & we need dozens more) that have been running for a decade or more, and they know they can’t do that.

Here’s my encouragement: start with ONE resident. See if you can form best practices and take great notes for the future.

2. Find Partnerships, Coaches, and Models. They’re out there. I’m personally working on Leadership Pathway. We will have coaching helps, and a program available by fall based on the learning of the last four years.

3. Choose the Developer & Avoid the Need. If your average church attendance is around 1250 (give or take 500 people) you probably have somewhere around ten to thirteen FTE on the team. Some of these teammates are killing it, and some probably need help in their week-to-week ministry.

My advice is to identify the staff member who has proven to be a developer of people and start there. This may be the strongest/best looking department on the team, which may cause questions.

Remember: you must want more for the resident than from the resident. This is not about helping out a weak ministry.

Here’s the reality: all day everyday folks like me are in conversations with churches of 150 to 15,000 who cannot find what they are looking for in their next hire. Disruptive change in how we prepare next leaders is a critical need in the Kingdom with no short fixes.

Don’t put this off another year. Like a lot of leadership moves you’ve made…you’ll never actually be “ready.” This will take a small risk with a lot of vision.

whatDave Miller