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  • Baptist Beacon

On-the-job-training in church

by Tony Lynn

  • Sitting with a family and their loved one in Hospice care

  • Leading a small group Bible study

  • Sharing the Good News of Christ with last Sunday’s visitor to church

  • Assisting with a memorial service

  • Preparing and preaching a sermon

  • Coordinating food distribution

  • Leading a session of premarital counseling

  • Assisting with the Lord’s Supper

  • Attending church leadership meetings

PLYMOUTH, MI – Could you imagine what would happen if a nine-month, on-the-job-training was set-up in your church? More people would serve if they could explore ministry. How many more might respond confidently to a call to ministry because they understood the role better? Adults have flexible work hours. Retired adults have time and health that could be put to good use. Young adults might consider a lifetime call to service if they could experience ministry first-hand in their local church, alongside people in whom they have confidence. On-the-job-training or residencies in at least half of the churches in Michigan could make an enormous difference.

During 1974, I called every architectural & engineering company in Flint, Michigan asking for a chance to work as a draftsman. I discovered my love of design and drawing during high school classes. As a teen, I thought it was time I tested myself to see if I wanted to spend my life at that work. I landed a job working with Samborn, Steketee, Otis, and Evans (SSOE). The company has been around since 1948 and currently has 20 locations in 4 countries. I worked for the firm until I graduated high school in 1977. While my classmates worked fast food and retail, I walked through Buick plants, AC Delco Parts additions, schools, businesses and churches that I helped draw.

As I worked at SSOE, every adult took interest in me. Creative architects let me make changes on their original drawings. Electrical engineers showed me how to use formulas to calculate the correct number and location of light fixtures in each room. Mechanical engineers explained to me why air ducts gradually become smaller the further they are from the initial air system. Everyone in the firm poured their knowledge and experiences into me. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my teen years.

Envision what it would be like if there was a pathway, created in your church, customized by you to welcome seekers who wanted to explore Christian service. You design the content. You set-up the calendar. You interview the candidates. You select the promising servants who will enthusiastically serve alongside you increasing the strength of the church. Do you have goosebumps yet?

A proponent of residencies put it like this, “Why not look around the church and watch for those persons who already serve their families and friends in a pastoral way. Approach the guy and say, ‘Jim, I’ve been watching you and I love the way you generously help others. Would you consider working alongside me for 9-months just to become more familiar with how the church assists people?’ It might be that Jim could sense a call to ministry while working alongside you rather than waiting for Jim to discover his calling without first experiencing it.”

An effective residency is an intentional effort to discover, develop, and deploy church leaders. A residency creates an opportunity where participants review and readjust their convictions, their character and their competencies so they can become more effective in God’s kingdom. A residency with a cohort component where participants learn with peers and coaches, doing real life ministry, offers accelerated growth and allows everyone to see if participants create good chemistry working with others.

May I encourage you to discuss this potential game-changer with church leadership? What have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing. What have you got to gain? Lifetimes of service from those already in your church who want to know how they can help.

By the way during the seventies, at the same time professional engineers and architects were pouring themselves into my life, my pastor was doing the same. He would pick me up and then pick up my girlfriend in his blue Jeep without the canopy taking us on church visitation where we learned how to share the Good News of Christ. He encouraged us to lead out in the youth group. We made phone calls when people were absent. We enlisted teen volunteers to help at church. We took on ministry roles on Youth Sunday. Little did I know back then that our pastor’s informal residency would be the stronger experience that would direct my girlfriend (who is now my wife) and me to our life’s calling of international missions and ministry.

Call me and let’s talk about a residency for your church before it leaves your mind and your heart: 734.770.0608. I’m convinced this manner of increasing effective leaders has been on the mind and heart of God a very long time.



Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.


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