Three Concepts to Help Unlock Residency at Your Church

Many churches want a residence program, but most feel that they are not able to. Dave gives practical advice to help EVERY church start a residence program.

Dave Miller

February 18, 2020

I don’t know that anyone would argue that the best way to find your next staff member is to just grow one. We’ve come along way with on-line search tools and head-hunting groups specifically for the church in the last decade. We will always need them, but the best/first is to hire from within.


Hiring from within takes more intentionality than ever.


The title for this post could be “You Should Start a Residency Program at Your Church Even if You Aren’t Ready” because I know some great churches who keep putting off pulling the trigger. Some I have talked with for over three years now, and this topic has become the can kicked down the road.


This is not a post on the importance of residency or why you should do one. I’ve had more than a few conversations with church leaders that I know would be great providing oversight to a resident leader, but they simply couldn’t get approval from their executive teams. “We’re not quite ready,” is the typical response.


The medical industry has known for a long time how to create a doctor. Lots of knowledge and books, but lots of stressful learning on the job in a teaching hospital is required as well. They call it residency. My son was born at a teaching hospital. The doctor had anywhere from three to six young and energetic residents following him around as I recall. I heard Dr.Gregory Ozark of Loyola University say in a seminar once, “there are great hospitals and there are great teaching hospitals…just don’t get the two confused.” The same is true of churches and we should embrace the medical industry model of this on a wide scale.


Your church should become a teaching church if you answer yes to the following questions:


// Is our church advancing? (not just getting bigger but actually seeing conversion growth)


// Is our church a place where I believe someone could learn best practices for ministry?


// Do I have a staff member who has proven they are a developer of people?


Let’s face it, you can talk about it, write curriculum, and try and engineer out all of the issues, but guess what you’ll be doing at the end of the first year of residency? Changing and tweaking it! So, don’t spend too much time on isolated development because you will have gaps. Gaps are ok.That’s where you learn what not to do next year.


Church Leadership Residency is a journey. It’s one leader coaching a younger leader on how to navigate ministry. Education is linear but experience is fluid and will be forever changing based on temperament and personality of those involved.  




Since “activator” is in my top five of Strength Finders, allow me to help push the topic by offering simple concepts of how to do get a residency going:


1. Start Small. I think one idea that keeps churches locked up on this topic is that they study marque residency programs at massive churches (there are a couple out there & we need dozens more of these) that have been running for a decade or more, and they know they can’t do that.


Here’s my encouragement: start with ONE resident. See if you can form best practices and take great notes for the future.


2. Find Partnerships, Coaches, and Models. Go checkout 12stone in Atlanta, CCV or Central Christian in Phoenix, and Gateway in Dallas. These are all great examples. Be inspired by them. Don’t try to be them your first five years. I’m personally working on and it’s our vision to see a thousand churches of a thousand with a thousand residents some day.


3. Choose the Developer & Avoid the Need. If your average church attendance is around 1250 (give or take 500 people) you probably have somewhere around ten to thirteen full time employees on the team. Some of these team mates are killing it, and some probably need help in their week-to-week ministry.


My advice is to identify the staff member who has proven to be a developer of people and start there. This may be the strongest/best looking department on the team, which may cause questions.


Remember: you must want more for the resident than from the resident. This is not about helping out a weak ministry.


Here’s the reality: all day everyday folks like me are in conversations with churches of 150 to 15,000 who cannot find what they are looking for in their next hire. Disruptive change in how we prepare next leaders is a critical need in the Kingdom with no short fixes.


Don’t put this off another year. Like a lot of leadership moves you’ve made…you’ll never actually be “ready.” This will take a small risk with a lot of vision, but together we can do it.

About Dave Miller -

Dave Miller spent fourteen years as a Creative Arts Pastor. The people he worked with
were as diverse as the places he lived: Kentucky, Vegas, and Michigan. Through these
experiences he learned that there’s nothing like the power of a local church on mission
to advance the Kingdom. 

For the past fourteen years he has traveled the country helping churches, and helping
friends who help churches. He resides in Denver with his wife, Kristin, who is the co-
founder of His heart is to help others call a generation to
effective local church ministry.

He can be found at and on twitter at @davemillerLp

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