3 markers of every good church planting residency — and 3 pro tips to help you build an effective residency program

Caleb Smith

Former Converge Director of Residency and Coaching

  • Church planting & multiplication

As a pastor or church leader, you probably have a passion for empowering other pastors and leaders. The church always needs new leaders to step up. And even though the Lord will raise the leaders despite us, we have been commanded to be faithful stewards and workers.

If the past few decades have been a sign of what’s to come in the United States, we need to be more intentional. Several factors have contributed to the steady decline of influence the local church has on American culture:

  • The local church’s ability (or lack of ability) to find a pastor with both knowledge and experience.
  • The endless culture wars and their influence on the minds, hearts and spirits of believers and nonbelievers alike.
  • The low value placed by the church-at-large on launching or even supporting church plants.
  • The increasing average age of pastors


One of the most critical factors has been the church’s slow adoption of a scalable, easily replicated ministry training program. We have gotten too used to outsourcing teaching and training, sending those who may be called from within our local churches to go off to another place to learn. Instead, we should be giving our people, the people who sit in our pews and chairs, the opportunity to deeply engage where they are.

Converge’s church planting vision is to start 312 churches in the United States by 2026. If each of those church plants engages with 200 nonbelievers and those nonbelievers turn into disciples on mission for Christ, 62,400 more creations will experience life with their Creator. As we take this hill together, one of the lead measures is the number of potential church planters we can engage in a Church Planting Residency.

After years of research, months of touring and visiting strong residencies, and hours of phone and video calls with church planting leaders around the country, we have identified three markers that every good church planting residency has in common:

1) Meaningful leadership, meaningful work

A resident is not a glorified intern. A resident is not a lackey cutting out shapes and distributing crayons to the children’s rooms. A resident is not someone who comes in, sits around and then leaves with little to no interaction with the staff or volunteers.

A resident is a staff member with a leadership role and work that trains them for a lifetime of ministry.

If you have a resident who desires to be a senior pastor or a church planter, you must be willing to give them at least three Sundays in a row to preach. If you have a resident who is passionate about youth ministry, you must grant them the authority to meet with parents and volunteers and engage in conversations that might not include you. If your resident loves small group ministry, equip and empower that person to lead your church’s small group leader training.

Pro tip: Every resident should have an official staff title. Instead of “Worship Ministry Resident,” give your resident a title such as “Worship Ministry Coordinator.” Instead of “Church Planting Resident,” use “Online Campus Pastor.” Give your resident something that sticks.

2) A safe place to fail and succeed

A good, healthy residency allows for someone to fail (without having a strike marked against them) appropriately and provides for them to succeed (maybe even greater than their boss). Too many leaders set up residencies (and internships, for that matter) in a way that always keeps a firm hand pushing down.

If pastors and ministry leaders want to reach more people with the gospel by planting churches, we must allow someone to be better than us without our egos getting in the way. Too many church leaders only gather and hire people whom they will always lead better than. It’s time to quit, repent and step into a brighter future of seeking out those who will work us out of our jobs.

Pro Tip: After every “failure,” the three questions you should ask a resident are 1) What happened? 2) What did you learn? and 3) What should you do about it now?

3) Intentional healthy launch

All three of those words are vitally important.

  • Intentional: Consistent communication that defines the church/resident relationship and timeline.
  • Healthy: Providing the space for the resident to engage with the body of Christ fully while preparing to launch.
  • Launch: Giving the resident the time, tools and treasures that will seed them well into the next season to which God has called them.

Pro Tip:
Trust the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts, minds and spirits of all involved. If a board member wants to meet one-on-one with the resident, don’t get nervous. If a committed regular tither wants to shift their financial support to the resident-turned-church-planter, be thankful and joyful. Trust the Spirit’s work of discipleship.

Maybe you’ve never identified a potential church planter. Maybe you’ve never developed, started and maintained a ministry residency. Maybe you’ve tried residency-type-stuff in the past and have found it lacking. Or, maybe you’re the best at leading a church planting residency.

Regardless of what defines your experience, we are here to support, encourage, and assist. From handing you the step-by-step playbook and walking you through implementation to simply being your biggest fan, whatever you need, we’re here to help as we see another 62,400 lives added to the kingdom.

Let’s do this — together.

Learn how Converge can partner with your church to create an effective residency program that produces the next generation of ministry leaders. Need more information? Contact us.


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Caleb Smith, Former Converge Director of Residency and Coaching

Caleb Smith is the former Director of Residency and Coaching for Converge. Prior to joining Converge, he served in a variety of capacities within the local church over the previous 17 years.

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