Trend #3 for the Future of Church Planting: Residencies and Theological Education

Seminaries are realizing that ministerial training happens best in the context of a local church.

Trend #3: Residencies and Theological Education

When it comes to theological education, the pendulum has swung back-and-forth a few times over the last couple of centuries. From theological education being birthed out of the church, to it then being handed over to educational institutions, then back to the church and so-forth, we are at a time in history where the two sides are beginning to move towards an equilibrium. Seminaries are realizing that ministerial training happens best in the context of a local church, while churches are discovering that training someone theologically is completely different than training someone for practical ministry.

Both seminaries and churches are looking to one another for help and for partnerships because both sides realize they cannot take on the task of theologically educating and pastorally forming an individual by themselves. The bridge that is being formed between churches and seminaries is called, “residencies.” While there are many different ways that churches and seminaries are approaching residencies, they all seem to share a common goal – to do a better job at integrating theology with praxis. Where they all differ in their model is their starting point. Let me share three out of five of them. You can learn more in the new edition of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches That Multiply (May 2016).

Starting Point: Multiplication

In this residency model, church planters will develop the knowledge, skills, and ability to infuse multiplication at every level of their church. They will be developed with the the gradual release of responsibility model, so that their development is personal and hands on. By the end of this residency program, they will have developed a plan, not just to multiply the leaders and groups within their church, but also their church as whole.

Starting Point: Sustainable Ministry

In this residency model, church planters will develop the five characteristics of a healthy sustainable pastor, as was revealed in the resilient pastoral ministry study that Covenant Seminary conducted in partnership with Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary. They will grow in spiritual formation, self-care, emotional and cultural intelligence, marriage and family, and leadership and management.

Starting Point: Leadership

In this residency model, church planters will develop the leadership skills required to successfully plant and lead a church. These leadership skills include vision casting, hiring practices, team ministry, strategic development, and conflict management. In order to develop these skills, the church planter will first focus on growing in self-awareness, since this is where the heart of the leader is formed.


As churches continue to be planted and reach the lost in their neighborhoods, my prayer is that the next generation of church planters would be raised up, trained, and sent out from the harvest to the harvest. May our churches be the training grounds for the future army of church planters. May we stop penalizing pastors for being bivocational, but instead see the unique opportunities that are latent within that model. And lastly, may we stop seeing church plants as competition, but instead create opportunities for kingdom collaboration.

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Published April 16, 2016

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