Why residencies? Developing future church leaders and planters

Caleb Smith

Former Converge Director of Residency and Coaching

  • Coaching & covering

The statistics can seem daunting and depressing. More than 3700 churches a year are closing their doors. By 2030, that number is projected to be over 5000 per year. If the pace of church planting stays as is, the evangelical church will be at a net loss of about a thousand churches per year. If we believe that God’s Kingdom is ever-expanding, then we must get better at identifying, preparing and developing future church leaders and planters.

After earning a degree in Christian Education, spending a summer in a youth ministry internship and working in the church full time for 7½ years, I finally experienced the training I needed: a ministry residency that encouraged, supported, corrected and sent me. In 2009, my young family and I moved to Ruston, Louisiana, to do youth ministry — for the fourth different time.

But this one was different. The leadership at this church made it clear: “We see so much more for you. Yes, we want you to pour everything you have into the youth of this community. But we also want you to grow. We want you to take risky steps of faith. We want you to learn and lead. We want you to live into your God-given potential.”

And so began a 3½-year employment, better defined by the term “residency.” We were loved. We were encouraged. We were given a safe place to succeed. We were given a safe place to fail. And we were given the emotional and spiritual support of a community that launched us into greater Kingdom impact. This is what we, as Converge, want every church to lean into and experience. This is the launching pad we want for everyone who has been called to vocational ministry.

The first “why” of residencies is simple: to clarify the call to vocational ministry. This is absolutely different from an internship. An internship assists in determining a call. An internship provides a peek behind the curtain. But a residency is a place to give meaningful leadership and work while providing the space for residents to grow in boldness, humility and love.

The second “why” of residencies is all about the local church. The local church owns the process. The local church owns the context and culture. The local church surrounds the resident physically, emotionally and spiritually. The local church participates in the developing and sending. I believe there is at least one person in every church in the United States who has felt the call to vocational ministry but has never known what to do with that call. Instead of making it seem unattainable, something you have to go somewhere else to learn about, let’s rally in our local churches, in our local contexts, to provide the avenue and watch God work.

The first Converge residencies are launching this summer. In Texas, a new church plant has identified someone from within who has expressed interest in church planting. In Wisconsin, an established congregation has sensed God’s call to reach rural communities. They have identified someone from within who has been looking for the bridge to be covocational, keeping his day job while pastoring in a rural context. In Florida, a young man from Illinois, believing he is called to ministry but seeking clarity for what that means, will step into a two-year residency, being open to God’s working in his life.

These stories and more show the height, depth and breadth of potential and opportunity that a residency can serve. The model to emulate seems simple. Jesus called some to travel with him, listen to him, discuss with him, learn from him and then do in the power of his name. He allowed them the safe place to succeed and fail. He gave them the emotional and spiritual support they needed. He encouraged them. He corrected them. And he sent them. May each local church be empowered to do the same, in the name of Jesus.

Learn more about Converge residencies.

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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