Top Ten Questions (part one)

These are the top 10 questions (plus a couple more) that we get from churches about Leadership Pathway. 

What is Leadership Pathway?

Leadership Pathway (Lp) matches potential ministry residents with churches that have committed to being a teaching church. We then coach the staff at the church in the best practices of equipping the resident for two years in 24Core Competencies in our coaching manual we’ve called a Guidebook.


Why are you doing this?

There’s an obvious gap between college/seminary diplomas and being “ready” or “hirable.” From the smallest to the largest churches. From those churches in rural communities to urban centers…there’s a talent issue of future leaders. We want to do our part in helping address this issue.


What do you mean by teaching church?

Well, Dr. Greg Ozark of Loyola Hospital in Chicago once said, “There are great hospitals, and there are great teaching hospitals…try not to confuse the two.” We’d say the same about churches. Some churches are amazing but don’t allocate the resource, or missional awareness, to being a place where others can learn. Being a teaching church requires a commitment from the top, and it’s a mindset that this church wants more for the student than from the student.


What are practical ways you see this playing out?

When a church begins the conversation by saying “We need a middle school pastor, but cannot afford one…so let’s get an intern...” we will choose not to engage. We aren’t saying that’s a wrong strategy, but we are saying that’s not a pathway to leadership development that we are going to invest in.

Lp looks like…

-       A leader who has proven they can develop others, both volunteers and staff, and desires to do this, we give them a framework for a residency program.

-       A Seminary grad who is still not ready and considering bailing out into something else, we help them make good on their investment.

-       A State University Junior or Senior majoring in something that has nothing to do with church leadership is feeling the call, and shows evidence of this desire…we give them a path into ministry at a teaching church.

-       A student who only made it through three semesters of higher ed, has been working in the marketplace for three years, but cannot get away from ministry…we find the right fit for them in residency.

-       A church that will make a great teaching church, but cannot find candidates for residency. We will search nationwide to place the right one there.


What’s the difference between a resident and an intern?

We use the term “resident” because of what it implies. Interns tend to make copies, run errands, and never meet the boss. Just like in medicine, a resident is all-in and is going to do this with their lives. There’s an implication that they must be able to do certain skills within a certain time frame. We agree.


What’s the focus of Lp? What’s in the playbook?

Well it’s called a Guidebook for starters, and we did this intentionally because we do believe we are on a journey. A path of sorts. The speed, how many diversions, how long to get through a certain point, is really up to the guide and depends on where the resident is in their competency. 

The Guidebook is “helps manual” to have developmental conversations. There’s a big difference in being developed and just having an opportunity to be cheap labor. Both are fine, actually, but we are about the first one.


What are the conversations around? What are the competencies?

About six years ago we began asking church leaders one of two questions:
Tell us about your last personnel mistake/disaster? Why did they quit or why did they get fired? Etc.
Secondly, what are you looking for in your next staff hire?

Our hunches were affirmed through these round tables with pastors of churches in rural settings of one hundred, all the way up to some of the largest in the country. Their answers led us to eventually coming to the 24Core Competencies [insert link] that we feel Lp can help answer.

We know there are great educational models out there to help future church leaders be smart and know the Word – they must keep doing what they’re doing because future leaders must be smart.

We know there are amazing spiritual formation tools available to future leaders at all stages of their spiritual walk. We need them to keep developing the heart and spiritual temperature of future leaders.

Lp is not classic education, and Lp is not classic spiritual formation. We fill the gaps and add a third rail, so to speak, in these leadership skills.


What will Lp not do?

We are not good for students who don’t know what they want to do with their lives. There are hundreds of gap-year programs, short stay missions, etc. Go do that if you aren’t sure.

We are not a college. We are not for credit. We are not a Bible Study curriculum.


What’s the vision?

We see the potential each candidate.. If they go through this program they will be highly desired and hirable. Anything short of that is a fail.

We see hundreds of candidates entering the pipeline each year because of Lp. Some would have given up. Some don’t fit the traditional model our classic organizations still have. Some would have made it anyway, but now will take their first steps in to ministry in a much better place than before.

We’d rather see one resident at twenty churches of 1,500 than twenty residents at one church of twenty thousand. We believe one on one is best. We also know that the resident at the church of 1,500 is going to be asked to contribute at a higher level. This is critical.


What’s next?

We are on a marathon walk…maybe a job. Stanley says, “You overestimate what you can do in a year, and you underestimate what you can do in a decade.” Most of us at Lp are get-it-done types, and it takes discipline to build something over the next ten years, but this is our endeavor.


What do you need?

We need churches that are willing to make the investment (and we aren’t talking about finances).

We need Christian Colleges and Seminaries to be willing to have the conversation. We think we can actually help their graduates be what they want them to be. We can tell their story for them.

We need paths on to University and College campuses where dynamic leaders who can do anything with their lives, are thinking about church leadership, but don’t have a path to get there. We need that influence and platform.



how, what, whyDave Miller