About Us

Our mission is to help ministries design, implement and manage Academic-Grade gap year, ministry internship, and Church residency programs, so they can better prepare the next generation of faith-driven leaders and grow their mission.

We accelerate and amplify next generation disciple-making for ministry and the marketplace.

discipleship training program gap year students

What we do.

We’ve spent the last two decades designing and launching custom university-level church residency, ministry internship, and Christian gap year programs, with a growing network of churches, Christian camps, mission agencies, and other faith-driven organizations. We’ve also walked hundreds and hundreds of undergraduate and masters students — in partnership with a regionally-accredited Christian university partner — through ministry and leadership courses and programs heavily integrated with their frontline ministry roles and responsibilities.

At every phase of that journey, we’ve developed and honed a program design and delivery model that exceeds accredited higher education standards while emphasizing the unique disciple-making DNA, culture, and context of each ministry organization. We firmly believe the God-designed DNA and call of each person and organization can and should be the “lead foot” in the disciple-making effort. We make it a point to “learn” each new partner as a foundation for designing a program that will be a powerful tool for its unique mission and context.

We are building a gospel-driven global learning community, including universities, ministries, businesses, and individuals actively collaborating to make disciples that make disciples in ministry and the marketplace, with a particular focus on elevating (existing) and launching (new) church residency programs, Christian GAP year programs, and ministry internship programs.

What’s the name all about?

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.Hebrews 11:6 (NASB)

Our name continually reminds us that the God who was, is, and is to come, the Creator of all things, the One who loved us and gave everything for us while we were yet sinners, is the One who rewards — and is the ultimate reward. Every moment and resource we steward is from Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him. And we love the opportunity every day to know Him more completely as we co-labor with His people and His Church in all its creativity and diversity across the world.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NASB)

Our Team

Like any missional organization, ours is a strategic collaboration of highly committed team members passionate about multiplying value for every organization and person we serve. God continues to build a dynamic team of excellent people that make each other more effective.

Ben Wilhite -- Founder -- Discipleship training program developer.

Ben Wilhite

Founder & Executive Director

Ben drives the vision and direction of Eleven:6, leads the operational and education teams, stewards the development of the learning community, shapes our technology toolbox, and is heavily involved in developing and customizing university-level church residency, ministry internship, and Christian gap year programs for our partner organizations.

From 2003-2022, he also served as the Executive Director of Pilgrimage. Prior to that, he invested five years as a Project Manager/Assistant to the VP of Lending and New Accounts Manager at Pennsylvania State Employee Credit Union, a $2 billion financial institution. He holds a BA in Finance from Liberty University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Clarks Summit University.

Ben’s passion is to invest in the development of Kingdom people and resources that amplify the disciple-making mission of the local church.  In 2017, he launched Anchor Christian University, an innovative institution that partners with frontline ministries globally to train next-generation ministry leaders.

Ben has been married to Jeni for almost 25 years. They have four children (ages 14-22).

Jenni Kirkley

Operations Manager

Jenni makes our processes go, and is actively involved in developing the “how” that facilitates our “why.” That includes management of our learning management system, student information system, curriculum design, and actively interfacing with frontline ministry partners to make sure everything we do operationally is amplifying their mission and program operations.

Prior to her role with Eleven:6, Jenni served as a key member of the education team at Chazak Rescue, one of our frontline ministry partners. During that season, she completed the MA Organizational Leadership program via our partnership with Clarks Summit University (PA). Jenni also holds a BS in Nursing from Drexel University.

Jenni’s experience serving leaders includes local church (small group, worship, youth), medical field (emergency, school nursing, family practice, teaching), and academic (mentoring and advising student leaders of a public university campus ministry) platforms.

Jenni met her husband, Dan, while serving as program staff at a summer camp in PA. Currently their household contains their four growing children (ages 10 to 17 years) and her husband’s parents.

Jenni Kirkley -- Ops Manager -- Discipleship training program support

Eric Smith -- Network Catalyst -- Discipleship training program community development.

Eric Smith

Partner Development Catalyst

Eric builds relationships with frontline ministries desiring to launch or upgrade faith-driven discipleship and/or leadership development programs with the Eleven:6 toolbox. His passion for and experience leveraging active ministry environments to grow and mobilize next gen leaders shapes his capacity to quickly discern the unique dynamics and opportunities that will drive powerful missional outcomes for new frontline ministry partners.

Eric serves as the Higher Education Director at Hidden Acres Christian Center, a large Christian camp in central Iowa. In 2021, Eric partnered with Eleven:6 to design, implement, and manage The Residency, a one-year integrated master’s degree program with an accredited degree option. He also teaches an undergraduate camping ministry course for college students on his summer staff through Eleven:6.

Additionally, Eric developed a Christian gap year program at Hidden Acres called The Ministry School, in partnership with an accredited Christian college.

Eric holds an AA in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute, a BS in Human and Educational Services from Illinois State University, and an MA in Christian Leadership from Corban University. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in Leadership from Anderson University, with a concentration in Christian ministry.

He has experienced firsthand the benefits and ease of a partnership with Eleven:6 and is excited about the opportunity to partner with other camps and ministries to equip Gospel-driven leaders around the world.

Eric lives in central Iowa with his wife, Emily, and their four daughters (ages 2-6).

Our origin story.

The roots of Eleven:6 start in the wilderness. In 1984, a ministry called Pilgrimage launched out of a local church wilderness program, focused on helping ministry organizations use active learning environments to disciple their people and develop gospel-driven leaders. What does that have to do with university-level training programs? Everything, actually.

Over the years, the Pilgrimage team developed a keen understanding of how God wired people to learn, to grow, and to help others grow, in community across a wide array of groups, cultures, and theological expressions. The intensity and focus of the wilderness platform accelerated the development of transformative learning and leadership models that broke free of the woods, catalyzing discipleship across ministries in the U.S. and abroad.

In 1992, Pilgrimage moved from a local church-based ministry into partnership with an accredited Christian university. It wasn’t long before the opportunity arose to develop university courses around the wilderness platform — and then an internship-based Camp Ministries degree program, and a graduate Organizational Leadership program.

Eleven:6 founder, Ben Wilhite, grew up with the Pilgrimage wilderness program. His father, Dr. Dennis Wilhite, founded and led it through its first two decades. Taking the helm in 2003, Ben had a vision to extract the learning and leadership DNA born in the wilderness and invest it in the gospel mission of the local church globally. Not everyone can go to the wilderness. But people can be developed anywhere, if the toolbox and training goes to them, where they learn, live, and lead. Eleven:6 was formally branched out of Pilgrimage in 2016, focused exclusively on the education initiative.

Over the past two decades, we’ve added a range of undergraduate and graduate ministry and leadership programs — church residency programs, Christian GAP year programs, and ministry internship — grown a network of frontline ministry partners, developed a dynamic university-grade faculty, launched Anchor Christian University, and expanded — through partnership — to amplify the gospel mission on four continents. And we are intensely committed to helping ministries fulfill their mission, where God placed them, with the people He gathered there. Your mission is our passion.