Pictured: Luke and Kyla, residents at All Shores Church in Spring Lake, Michigan.

“We should have just had you Wesleyans send us all your materials and not even met” a co-host half-joked to me after the Wesleyans gave a strong presentation of our residency initiative.

The Residency Initiative, the branch of the Early Ministry Initiative in the Education and Clergy Development Division (ECD), has successfully launched a residency movement in The Wesleyan Church. The denomination was represented at a Residency Summit in Chicago in early October by ECD and three local churches: Emily Vermilya, the Ministry Development Program Director at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana; Rick Rucker from Cypress Wesleyan Church in Ohio who directs their residency program; Troy Evans from The Edge Urban Fellowship who has empowered a variety of residency-like experiences in the urban core of Grand Rapids. Mentioned but unable to be present was Miles Welch of 12Stone, which has close to 25 residents and 20+ residency partner churches.

The Church Residency Summit was a three-day conversation for pastors and ministry leaders that sought to develop new recommendations, approaches and practical plans for church residencies across a broadly evangelical audience. It was hosted by Missio Alliance and the Ministry Lab Network

Joel Liechty represented the Residency Initiative of ECD, presenting on the various models of residencies in The Wesleyan Church that have been launched since the 2012 General Conference. Emily Vermilya from College Wesleyan Church gave a practical and inspiring presentation, calling for creative models for training and equipping a generation of new pastors.

The Early Ministry Initiative, and more particularly residencies, exists to create a network of churches, thought leaders, and lead practitioners who will provide effective apprenticeship, internship and mentoring programs for new ministers in order to develop healthy, fit and effective ministers from the beginning of their ministry.

This Initiative helps healthy local churches and effective pastors provide entering ministers with the development, support, and training needed during the first five years of ministry. Whether a new graduate from college or a second career pastor, the first five years are critical for establishing the future trajectory of a new minister’s life. Therefore, The Wesleyan Church wants entering ministers to work for 1-2 years as a “Resident pastor” in an established, healthy local church. A seasoned minister can offer the mentoring, coaching, and practical ministry experience that will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy, fit and effective ministry. Our job in Education and Clergy Development is to network entering ministers with experienced pastors and local churches and offer resources to each so that The Wesleyan Church has a variety of models of Residency Programs in various kinds of local churches.

At the 2012 General Conference, Pastor Kevin Myers from 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, GAgave a stirring call for The Wesleyan Church and local churches in particular to embrace its responsibility to form and train new pastors. In response to this powerful vision, in June of 2013 Russ Gunsalus of ECD convened five Wesleyan Churches already running successful church residencies and the five chairs of each religion division in our 5 colleges. This group strategized the launch of a residency initiative in The Wesleyan Church. The primary task was the hosting of a Residency Launch Roundtable

Under the leadership of Rev. Russ Gunsalus, Executive Director of The Division of Education & Clergy Development, Keith Drury, Chair of the Early Ministry Initiative, gathered more than 50 Wesleyan ministers from across the denomination to found a new residency initiative for The Wesleyan Church. Graduating students will be involved in 1-2 years of practical training in a local church after their education so they can get practical on-the-job equipping for ministry. The goal of the effort is “to make a 1-2 year residency be as common as college for new ministers.” The 50+ Roundtable participants developed strategies and hammered out the shape of the new Residency program. College and Universities were also involved and will continue to offer shorter internships of a semester or summer. Dozens of these positions already exist in the Wesleyan Church and more than a hundred should be available in the next few years. These residencies will provide the opportunity for students to gain the necessary experience early on in their ministry that puts them on a trajectory to be healthy, fit and effective ministers for a lifetime.

Within a few months of the Residency Launch Roundtable, over 100 churches had indicated interested in residency programs, over 50 churches began to seriously engage in conversations about starting residency programs, and dozens launched programs. The movement quickly took on grassroots momentum, with churches working together to share best practices, share resources, and create a deeper culture of practical leadership development embedded in local churches. Since 2012, when residencies were given significant attention at General Conference and as a result of the Residency Launch Roundtable, more than 100 students have participated in residency programs throughout The Wesleyan Church.

You can learn more about the Early Ministry Initiative and Residencies here.