Raymond McDonald has been in the Vineyard since 1991, when he first started attending church as a musician in L.A. Ten years later, he planted the Vineyard Church of Conroe in Conroe, Texas, and has been there ever since. He started hosting a Residency+ site there this January.
The Residency+ program is designed to be used in churches of any size, and a cohort can be as simple as one pastor and one student. McDonald’s group is unusually large—nearly 20 students. We caught up with him to chat about how that’s going, and what he’s seeing as a result of investing in these leaders with this program.
MV: What made you decide to host a Residency+ site in your church?
RM: “I have always prayed for a lot of leaders since day one. And I had started a sermon-prep team of about 10 people, and I was also using it for teaching them my take and values on things. So when Residency+ came up, it made a lot of sense to me. We have 18 still enrolled, and the program allows me the opportunity to sow deeply into these leaders.
MV: And you all started in January, so you’re currently in the 3rd quarter. What are your observations about how it’s going so far?
RM: I have seen a community of strong leaders emerge within the group. They chat all the time back and forth online. It blesses me, because they do talk about superficial things like movies, but they also talk about what God’s doing in this church and in their lives, and it has really created camaraderie in this big group of people.
I also love seeing the way they love their church and what they do here. I’m talking about planting a couple of multi-sites here in the next couple of years, and they’re already getting excited to be part of that.
Some of the people in the program aren’t who I would have expected. A few who signed up, I thought “I really need to talk them out of this.” I thought they were too new or their lives were too stressful already. But I’ve seen leaders emerge out of them that I just never saw coming.
MV: How did the program work for your specific size group and mix of people?
RM: I like the size that we have. On the first day of class, I looked over at a young man who’s been taking every opportunity to develop as a leader for years. And I look at him and he’s crying. When I asked what was wrong, he said “I realize how rare this is. I know there will never be another year like this.” The power of the Holy Spirit was so strong; it set the tone.
Another thing I love about my group is that it’s about 50/50 men and women. And the women in the group know that they’re going to be able to plant a church, to preach. There’s going to be nothing that keeps them from that, other than where they stand with Jesus.
MV: What have you seen as fruit in the church as a whole and for you as the leader?
RM: I see the students in this class step up and lead, and they instill confidence in the other leaders in the church by who they are. I end up doing a whole lot less. I have kids at home, I’m working on recording an album, and I do guest speaking. I’ve said “no” to so many opportunities, and now I’m saying “yes” to some of them. It’s a way of growth in my life—God pulling some of the things I did before I was a pastor back out of the box. And the students are getting to play in the kingdom.
MV: What should other pastors know as they get into this program?
You’re never going to be able to trust the church to somebody else if you don’t start growing leaders.
RM: You’re never going to be able to trust the church to somebody else if you don’t start growing leaders. If you only hire from the outside, every value you’ve ever had is going to change the moment you aren’t around. My mentor was John Wimber. John and I were good friends. He saw me come in with long hair and said “sit next to me and ask lots of questions.” I got to hang out with him a lot. So, anything I have ever been given, I want to pour out into these people.
And if you don’t put it on the calendar, you’re not going to train leaders. This is on my calendar because it’s important. I’ve had some discouragements this year, but looking at what God is doing with these leaders has lifted me. And I’ve been able to share with them some of what I was going through, and they were able to walk with me through it, and see me make time every Saturday, even though I was in pain.
If you don’t put it on the calendar, you’re not going to train leaders.
One final thought I have for pastors whose first instinct is to create their own program for training leaders—because we’ve all got great ideas—why not show your people how to submit to something that’s not yours? You ask everyone to submit to your things. It’s good for you to model how you submit to someone else.
Find out how you can host a site in your church here