Ways to Find Great Residents

By Bob Burton

What are the two best things any pastor could do to find great residents?

The two best things any pastor could do to find great residents is to start by praying to the Lord of the Harvest and giving keen attention to imitate Jesus’ way of disciple making and leadership development.

There once was a kindergarten Sunday school class. The teacher said “Class, what likes nuts, lives in a tree and has a big bushy tail?” Silence. “Come on, class! What likes nuts, lives in a tree and has a big bushy tail?” Silence. Sensing the teacher’s frustration, Billy raises his hand and says, “Sounds like a squirrel, but I’m going to say Jesus.”

In church life, if you found yourself on the spot with a question from your teacher, there were always two answers that you could blurt out and nine times out of 10 you’d be right. Those two words were “Pray” or “Jesus”!

We’ve called that “the Sunday School answer.”

When it comes to finding great residents, Jesus set the standard with His three year “residency” plan. He developed those first disciples, but first He had to discover them – and prayer always was His starting point.

Think about these two Sunday School answers for finding great residents:

 Prayer is essential. Jesus prayed for guidance from the Father on who to select and likewise taught His disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth workers for the harvest (Luke 10:2). This is counter-intuitive to a worldly-wise recruiting mindset. When it came to selecting the “Twelve,” Jesus literally pulled an “all-nighter,” seeking the Father’s will on this important decision (Luke 6:12-15).

Jesus is the model. Jesus’ way of finding great residents must become our way of finding them. Bob Carlton, residency director at Highpoint Church, says, “Understanding the way Jesus developed His disciples into leaders in the past is the key to fueling a movement in the future.” Bob would draw a “fluxcapaciter” and give you a “Back to the Future” moment! In that movie, the fluxcapaciter Doc and Marty used for time travel had three fuel prongs. For Highpoint Church, three prong activities fuel their residency: inviting, investing and inspiring.

Jesus did and taught all those.

Think of how He invited fisherman, tax collectors and all other kinds of people to follow Him. See how He invested in their development through hands-on experiences and transformative teaching. Feel the passion and heartbeat of Jesus who inspired and literally empowered them through the Holy Spirit.

If you’re going to find great residents like Jesus did, then you must reorient yourself to His ways.

1. Be like Jesus, invite.
Jesus created culture for His residents and invited others into it. The biggest barrier for any church to seeing a residency established and finding great residents is the lack of a sending culture. Jason Zellmer, the director of Send Network Missouri, said, “Focus on your pathway, all the way back to prioritizing a robust student and family ministry. Talk about finding great residents and make this a critical part of your culture.” Focus on discovery. How might you use every channel within the church to cultivate relationships, invite new residents and foster a missional culture of inviting and sending? Be willing to invite.

2. Be like Jesus, invest.
Jesus was patient with His residents and willing to invest. Commit yourselves to the long haul. A worldly perspective wants things instantly, and finding great residents doesn’t work like that. It takes time. It’s comparable to developing a baseball farm system to see home grown “talent” raised up from within – over time. The default for most churches is to go the route of free agency: find and sign the gifted player to make a quick impact. A need to do free agency will continue in the normal places, such as colleges, seminaries and the like. If we are going to see a multiplying movement, however, we must have a long-term commitment to discover, develop and deploy from within. Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa, has embedded that in their DNA. Development comes at a price and is worth the investment of time, talent and treasure. How might your church up its investment? God will raise up and attract great residents to a church that invests with an “all in” mindset.

3. Be like Jesus, inspire.
Jesus valued the one among His residents and that ought to inspire us. Everyone needs a starting point, and each church, regardless of size, has the potential to have at least one great resident. Inspire with intentional pathways. Patrick O’ Connell, director of New Thing residency, said, “We are deeply convinced that the next generation of leaders in the church can be found in our congregation because of our focus on reproducing at every level.” Every church has the capacity to find one or two disciples, cultivate them into great leaders, then send them into the harvest. Your members will be attracted to your residency and even those outside will want to join with what God is doing. Celebrate to replicate! What can you do to inspire and not just inform? Determine to make the lifechanging “I see in you” conversations the norm.

‘Sounds like a squirrel’
The charge is to stop acting like a squirrel – chasing shiny things and losing focus in your search for residents. Seek to become a great residency church and you’ll attract great residents.

Invite, invest and inspire are three ways to discover and develop great residents. When applied, God will help you create a missional culture, help you be all-in for the long haul and help you find your starting point with at least one.

The key to finding great residents is the expanded Sunday School answer: following Jesus’s ways and saturating the process with prayer.

Published April 11, 2022

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Bob Burton

Bob Burton serves the Lord through the Send Network as the Midwest Regional Equipper. His passion is to be a kingdom catalyst to help churches experience God through becoming healthy multiplying churches. For the past 21 years, God has given him various assignments as a North American missionary and prior to that as church planter and pastor in his home state of Illinois. He seeks to be a Barnabas kind of friend to pastors, churches and missionaries. He recently published a book and accompanying workbook, The Spiritual DNA of a Church on Mission, in which he encourages God's people to obediently express their God-given spiritual DNA as seen in the life of Jesus and the book of Acts. He is married to his wife, Dana, of 33 years, and they reside in St. Charles, Missouri. They have three married sons, two grandkids, and a third grandkid on the way.