Residencies are an incredible way for people to see how the church can serve young leaders, says Ryan Brown, NextGen pastor at New Life (Canby Foursquare Church) in Canby, Ore., the pilot site of Foursquare’s first residency graduate.

This September, The Foursquare Church launched its national residency program at 18 different churches, with 18 unique residents, in both English and Spanish and representing Foursquare churches from the Pacific Northwest to Virginia and many stops in between.

The prior year, in Sept. 2012, New Life in Canby welcomed Ryan Egli as a resident after he graduated from its Emerging Leader Network’s “Immersion Discipleship and Canby Bible College.” The former resident is now a Foursquare license applicant and youth minister at Lifespring (Corvallis Foursquare Church) in Corvallis, Ore.

“Ryan’s previous training and gift mix allowed our youth to truly feel pastored by him, while at the same time understanding that he was on a path to somewhere else,” says Ryan Brown of Ryan Egli’s service at New Life. “And, our department benefited by having another perspective and gift mix on our team.”

This is the kind of reaction General Supervisor Tammy Dunahoo hopes to hear regularly as the first group of candidates settles into their residencies.

While over 20 churches, schools and districts have engaged in the program, not all have received a resident this fall. However, National Church Education Coordinator Courtney Hall confirmed 18 residents for deployment in September, and he is fielding additional applications for next spring.

This initiative is funded by the Foursquare Foundation’s Risser Endowment, named for former President Paul Risser and his wife, Marilee. Participating churches receive up to $5,000 in annual scholarship funds for up to two years per resident. Churches are responsible for providing hands-on leadership experiences in the resident’s field of focus, such as pastoring, church planting, chaplaincy, NextGen ministry, worship or administration.

Tammy says the inspiration for the program came from her experience in the medical field. She saw the benefits of graduates being required to practice the skills and knowledge they had acquired while still under the guidance of an experienced overseer.

“You have that safety net, an opportunity to experience the weight of leadership while being mentored,” Tammy explains. “The other important purpose is for the local church to be the place of intentional deployment of graduates.”

Two issues that have often surfaced in her conversations with students are the inadequacies young people feel about ministry, and uncertainties over how to advance to the next level. Indeed, during the Town Hall meetings chaired by her and President Glenn Burris Jr., numerous pastors expressed a desire for more training and mentoring.

“My desire is that we become known for the training we provide,” Tammy says. “Lifelong learning is a value personally, which I hope is true for the entire Foursquare family.”

Although long-term goals are still being formulated, Tammy sees residencies as a strategic way of addressing the ministerial “graying” that affects all kinds of churches. Still, she says success will depend on Foursquare churches discipling young people and preparing them for college and other training institutions to increase the pool of potential residents.

“My hope for the program is twofold,” Tammy conveys. “Not only for the young leaders who are being deployed to see their value, but also for the seasoned leaders—I hope they see how vital they are to our young leaders. Their wisdom and experience are what we’re going to be drawing on.”

Ryan Egli says ministering under the supervision of New Life’s Ryan Brown and youth pastor Spencer Schaber prepared him to assume leadership roles. While their oversight placed new expectations on him, Ryan Egli says it was worth it.

“Through the residency, I received the ability to have confidence in myself as a leader and what it means to live like a leader,” he affirms. “Above all else, I was encouraged in the calling God placed on my life.”

Ryan Brown says being able to do practical work in a safe environment would have helped him avoid repeated bumps on the road to ministry. He adds that churches starting or contemplating a residency should be aware that it will require a significant investment of time, a willingness to let residents lead, and maintaining a focus on the future.

“Understanding that the residency is a bridge to a destination means that in some ways the church or ministry that facilitates such a program needs to be one, too,” Ryan Brown says. “The fact that Foursquare isn’t just looking for help but also looking to help young leaders gives me great hope for our future.”

By: Ken Walker, an award-winning freelance writer living in Huntington, W.Va.