In the movie, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, we find young and recently graduated Andy (Anne Hathaway) landing a prestigious job with fashion icon Miranda (Meryl Streep). Early on in Andy’s experience, we see her delivering coffee, doing chores, and taking on excessive demands—remotely doing the job she thought she signed up for and barely utilizing her skillset. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to have that same mindset when it comes to residency programs. Many times senior pastors hear ‘residency program’ and think, “just another intern person to keep busy”. On the other side, many times students hear residency program and think, “just another coffee-running, chair-folding, van-driving internship”. With Leadership Pathway, these narratives couldn’t be further from the truth and Kelsey DePauw’s experience with her residency will help us explain why.
Kelsey grew up in church and all throughout high school knew she was called to go to a Christian college. And although she felt a calling, she didn’t fully understand what it meant to do ministry nor did she have an certain area or direction she felt passionate about. It wasn’t long into her time at school that God began to grow a passion in her heart for kids in the church. “I knew that the time I spent with the kids could be the only time they experienced Jesus in their entire lives. So I decided I would do everything I could to make that experience a wonderful experience, and one that will impact and grow their faith so that they can feel Jesus’ love just like I have.”
With a newly discovered passion in hand, Kelsey still needed an opportunity to full understand what it meant to be in ministry while gaining the practical experience to develop the gifts placed inside her. In that pursuit, she connected with Discovery Christian Church in Broomfield, Colorado that helped her redefine what ministry was. “Going into it, I figured that I would be the intern that cuts out crafts and gets coffee for everyone. I planned on being the hired hand. I figured out quickly that this was not the case, and was surprised when my boss started giving me important work to do. Not once did they treat me like a hired hand and they gave me the opportunity to be challenged in my work as well as in my faith.” That’s the power of an effective residency program! For Kelsey, kid’s ministry could have turn into the simple routine of writing a lesson, setting up the classroom, cutting crafts and repeat. However, her residency experience empowered her to think outside the box and be more strategic in reaching the next generation. For example, during the summer she hosts ‘ice cream socials’ where fourth and fifth graders meet to play board games and have intentional relationship building time away from lessons and formal schedules.
Her experience was a far cry from her initial coffee-running concept of residency. Kelsey firmly believes that because of her residency she is much more equipped than ministry students who graduate with only short or seasonal internships at a church. Much of that is due to the high-level demands residency programs produce. “My last year of my residency my director really wanted me to feel the pressure of ministry, so she gave me more than I could handle. She didn’t do that to be cruel. She did it so that I would understand that ministry is a lot of work sometimes and it can be stressful. But at the same time, she gave me tools on how to deal with that stress. She emphasized how important soul care was. She was there to support me when I failed. Not once did she get angry with me when I messed up and did something wrong. She would sit down with me, remind me that I’m a child of God, and do everything she could to encourage me.”
An effective residency program can be a catalyst for young ministry leaders across the country. For Kelsey, Discovery Church ended up hiring her as their Assistant Children’s Director—a job she believes she wouldn’t have had if she had only been there for a semester. Starting a residency program can be a step of faith as a senior pastor, but the decision can reap powerful dividends. If you develop student leaders for longer than a summer or semester and invest into them as much as they invest in the church, incredible things can happen!
Leadership Pathway (Lp) curates a network of churches, leaders, and training pathways in order to generate a pipeline of world-class church leaders who are highly desired and hirable. For more information on Lp go to http://leadershippathway.org/.