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Michael Gatlin

Michael Gatlin

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As a pastor, I’ve often had the experience of someone approaching me and asking to be trained to do what it I do. Whenever this happens, I consider it a precious gift; God has possibly spoken to this person and may be inviting them to a life of ministry. As much as possible, I want to honor the gift of what God is doing in that person by giving them the very best of my time and training.

A few years ago, in an effort to serve them better, I put together a year-long residency program for possible church planters who come to me for training. I’ve run it for a few years now, fine-tuning, tweaking and endlessly changing it along the way, and I’ve found it to be very successful. So what I’ve done is lay out the whole program into a user-friendly grid, now available for free to any senior pastors in the Vineyard who want to use it as a template for training church planters in their churches.

The residency grid shows how you might structure a year of training using not only your time and resources, but all the various other resources that are available in the Vineyard. I’m going to take a few minutes here to walk you through how I use these grids, so you can get an idea of what it would look like to use them in your church.

Here’s how I’m running the program this year. Starting in September, I’m meeting with my group for four hours every other Saturday morning. The year is divided into four quarters, which each have a different focus—formation of inner life; discovering vision and values; reaching, connecting, and building people; and doing church. Each quarter is sub-divided into monthly and bi-weekly sections where I narrow in on different aspects of the big-picture focus for the quarter.

In addition to the material I teach each session, I assign book readings for them to do on their own. I like to get them to a place where they can read a couple books a month. For stronger readers, I’ll even challenge them to read a book each week.

A typical meeting is basically structured like this:

1 hr—Discussing the assigned reading

2 hrs—Presenting and discussing the bi-weekly topic

45 min-1 hr—Prayer ministry
(Just imagine the impact of 24 bi-weekly hours of focused prayer throughout the year in a young leaders life, and you begin to get the picture of the impact this could have!)

I also assign several other tasks and activities for them to do outside of class throughout the year. One of them is starting and multiplying a small group over the course of a few months. That might seem fast, but it really pushes them to hone the skill of being able to identify, recruit, and train leaders, which is absolutely an essential part of planting a church.

The first time I used this grid, I was meeting with two couples and a single person every week for four hours. It worked incredibly well—about nine months (or 36 meetings) into our time together, one of the couples had seen their small group grow to between 40 and 60 people as they applied these principles into their lives. They are now several years into planting a church a few miles away from us at the Duluth Vineyard. The second couple had grown so much in their abilities to bring people to Christ and disciple them, and had become such an integral part of our community, that my wife hired them on staff. And the third person realized partway through that church planting wasn’t the right fit at that time, and went on to pursue an educational alternative.

I hope that gives you a good idea of what these grids are about and how you might take the material and apply it in your churches. Right now I can only share the grids themselves, but very soon you’ll have access to so much more. I’ve been talking with some of the people at Vineyard Institute, and they are going host the grid and all the accompanying teaching notes online. These will be available to all senior pastors for free. But they are also going to provide a virtual campus for running the training. Senior pastors can enroll for free, and students will be able to enroll for $150/quarter, with an option to work toward a church planting certificate from VI. Multiply Vineyard and VI are working together to roll that out in a matter of weeks, and I can’t wait to share it all with you then.

Whether you are interested in the possibilities of a VI classroom or not, the Church Planter Residency Grid is available for you to use and adapt however you’d like. Please let us know if you have and questions at [email protected]. Enjoy!

And if you’d like to hear from a couple of the people (including someone who relocated all the way from Shreveport, LA to Duluth, MN for a year to get trained—that’s dedication, folks!) who have worked through these grids with me, and are now out planting churches, read on!

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