Stop Competing with the Big Schools with Your Own Residency or Gap Year Program

The Church needs a new generation of leaders trained for the needs of today and tomorrow. Bible schools, Christian universities, and seminaries have long been the go-to destinations for future Christian leaders. But many local churches and ministries have begun reclaiming their unique role in the leadership training process. Traditional schools still provide a helpful service to the church, but your ministry can fill a gap that schools were never designed to meet.

Different Roles in the Same Process

For someone to become a fully realized leader, they need a lot more than can be found in a classroom. To be sure, content and classes can be an essential part of the leadership training process. But leaders also need a place to practice the ideas they read about. They need mentors and ministry leaders who can show them how to apply the theoretical in the real world.

Traditional schools still hold value for many people in the educational process. The classroom environment can be a great place for large amounts of distilled knowledge to be passed from one generation to the next. But certain truths need real world context to take hold. And it’s in the practical areas of leadership where your ministry likely has a distinct advantage in the training process. You can use this advantage for the benefit of the next generation of leaders.

Lean Into Your Strengths

You may be tempted to replicate in whole or part the traditional school model. You see the limitations of the traditional school model and think, “We can build something better!” For reasons we’ve explained in more detail elsewhere, you do not need to build your own separate school to give your students the benefits of the traditional school model. Besides, trying to compete directly with big schools will require an enormous amount of energy and resources. Instead, think of partnership!

Rather than competing with big traditional schools, you can lean into your strengths and allow schools to lean into theirs. This means building a partnership where students can reap the hands-on benefits of your gap year program, internship, or church residency program, plus the degree pathways that traditional schools offer.

Lopsided Partnerships Won’t Fix the Problem

One of the common solutions that you may have considered is what we like to call the “bolt-on” approach. Here, your gap year program, internship, or church residency program, offers the hands-on portion of the training and schools provide all the online classes. But you may find, as many others have, that this is a lopsided partnership.

The typical online degree program that a school will offer has no interaction with what you are offering on site. The school’s offerings are simply bolted on to the side of your program. The curriculum is not catered to your context. The subject areas you think are most important may not get any attention at all in the student’s online classes. The sort of ministry culture you have worked so hard to foster will be completely absent in anything the school offers. Ultimately, this program approach competes for bandwidth, dividing on-the-ground value instead of multiplying it.

Your Context Needs the Right Kind of Leaders

These sorts of partnerships can make it difficult for you to help emerging leaders step into their calling. If God has charged you with raising up new leaders, then you will likely want more say in what those leaders are learning, what gets emphasized, and how it all should get applied to real life. This is particularly true if you are creating a leadership pathway for a growing ministry. Raising up and refining leaders that are skilled for their calling AND in tune with your culture is a next-level win.

Your ministry is situated in a unique space. Whether you are a local church reaching your community, a Christian camp that has developed a reputation in your region, a mission organization with a global footprint, or some other frontline ministry, you have an important and unique place in God’s plan. You need leaders trained for your specific context. Outside schools will never be able to reproduce your unique ministry culture in their offerings. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored and cut out of the process entirely. Rather, you should have a program that brings the best of both worlds.

You can build a fully customized ministry internship, church residency, or Christian gap year program that still offers your students degree pathways and access to classes from some of the best known Christian universities. You may think that that sort of dream program will take forever to build (more on that here), but, with the right partnership, it doesn’t have to.

If you realize you need a partner to help you build a better training program, then schedule a call with us at Eleven:6, today.