How to Choose the Best Staff for Gap Year, Internship, and Residency Programs

More and more churches and ministries are realizing that the best way to find leaders is to train leaders — to create a leadership pipeline. That is why Christian gap year programs, internships, and church residencies of various types are becoming an increasingly popular option for ministries who want the right kind of leader. But the staff and instructors you need for these kinds of programs are not the same as you might find in a university or seminary setting. Here are some key characteristics to look out for with each type of training program

For Gap Year Programs

Gap year programs are typically 1-2 semesters long and fit in between a student’s high school and college years, hence the name “gap year.” When done right, these programs can improve graduation rates for college bound students and actually save them time and money in the long wrong. But getting the right staff and instructors to be a part of these programs is key to ensuring quality results. 

Focus on Experience

While academic credentials are always important, most gap year programs focus on using active learning environments with rich experiences to augment learning. Make sure your staff and instructors are adept at facilitating growth in this type of environment. Also, staff with broad experience in a variety of fields can be a benefit, as well. Students in these programs are looking for guidance for their future. They will need instructors and mentors who have gone out there and done things.

Understanding of Youth Culture

Gap year programs tend to attract just-out-of-high-school young adults. Candidates for those who would lead or serve in these programs will need to have some understanding of youth culture, their struggles, and how to interact with them.

For Internship Programs

Internships place emerging leaders alongside more established ministry professionals so they can learn the practical side of the work. Great internship programs also have a strong emphasis on developing the right character and internal motivations for ministry work. You will need strong mentor-type leaders to make your internship program a success.

Mentoring is King

While mentoring is important in every aspect of ministry training, it holds special prominence in the internship. You will need leaders who demonstrate a special skill in mentoring young leaders.


A leader whose first inclination is to do the work themselves will struggle to effectively empower interns to get their hands dirty. You need team-oriented leaders whose best asset is the gift of empowerment, with a complementary bent toward coaching.

For Residency Programs

Residency programs can vary widely, but they typically focus on using immersive ministry opportunities to train new leaders. This can be a camp, overseas mission site, or even a local church. The distinctive here is that trainees can expect to be fully immersed in the ministry. Here’s what you should be looking for in staff — instructors or mentors — in a church residency program.

Seasoned Leadership Experience and Skills

Be sure to pair residency students with seasoned leaders within your ministry. Most students entering into a residency already have some training and experience. What they are looking for is someone who can take them deeper and challenge them to go further.

A Person of Character

Character is vital to every aspect of ministry. Make sure the leaders you choose are people of character. But further than that, choose someone who makes developing character in others a priority. Residencies are the perfect opportunities to develop not just the skills of ministry but the character of ministry, as well.  Ministry and operational skill are valuable, but character produces endurance and multiplies impact over time.

Ministry leaders know that to succeed in ministry you need more than book knowledge. That is why Christian gap year programs, ministry internships and church residencies can be such powerful tools in developing the church’s future leaders. Choose leaders who are already living out the principles and priorities you value most.

Eleven:6 specializes in building university-level training programs customized for real world leaders. Schedule a call to learn how your training program can provide degree pathways for your graduates.