Six Qualities of a Teaching Church

by Dave Miller

A few years back I gathered with some leaders in Chicago on the topic of residency in churches. Right about the time I started to doze during the after-lunch session, Dr. Gregory Ozark from Loyola University began to present on the broad topic of “residency.”

As I recall, he began by saying something like "I’m not sure why I’m here, but I’ve been asked to present about how med students go through a residency program and eventually become a doctor. You guys are all pastors and I’m nervous…but here goes.”

Then he said something that I’ve now repeated probably hundreds of times: “There are great hospitals, and there are great teaching hospitals…just don’t confuse the two.”

For the next hour or so he blew us all away and I swear you could just take out the word “medicine” and put in “ministry” and you could take out the word “doctor” and put in “church leader.” The overlap was amazing.

That talk, and many since, have led us to consider what actually makes a great “teaching church.” A commitment to being this type of church is at the core of all we do. Perhaps you could evaluate your church or organization through these six criteria that have now become values that we try to live in to with our partner churches.

How would you rate your church in owning these six values:

COACHING: We want more for them than from them.
This cannot be about cheap labor or the intern who is going to make your copies & wash the van. Are you ready for the time it will take in the coaching area to bring on a resident?

OBLIGATION: This is on us.
Your resident is not yet ready for ministry. You know best how to get them to that point.
Your resident will have a clear plan because the course of action is always in front of them due to your efforts.

ENDGAME: The only win is for them to be hirable and highly desired.
This is not a gap year program…this is more than an internship.
Your resident will be employed full time when their time is finished.

FILLING THE GAPS: We address what education and spiritual formation doesn’t.
Education and Spiritual formation are necessary, and we assume this is happening.
Your resident has a better shot at surviving their first three years of full-time employment.

BEST PRACTICES: We believe in what you are doing.
They will observe, and gain experience in a church that is advancing
in the core functions of a modern church.
Your resident can make an immediate impact in a church
that is growing and advancing because of this experience.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: The church needs leaders & will only work best when it is led well.
Your resident must feel the weight of volunteer leadership early in the process.
After two years your resident will have great answers to the question:
“What have you been leading & building?”

If your church is this type of place we’d love to talk. If you want to be this type of place - we’d love to talk with you as well & lay out a plan to do this together.


residency, whatDave Miller