We’ve just finished up another quarter of the Multiply Vineyard Residency+ program we run in partnership with VI, and it’s been an excellent time of growth and discovery at all our sites around the country. But for those of you who haven’t been able to participate, here are some stories of Residency+ from a couple in Duluth, MN who completed the program this last year.
Jill and Rich Peterson have been faithful leaders in many ways in the Duluth Vineyard for years, and they went through the program starting last fall in order to grow, be better equipped as leaders, and explore whether they might be called to church planting. We sat down with them this month to ask them about the impact this program has made in their lives:
MV: We want to hear your story of how God used the Residency+ course in your lives. First, let’s talk about what motivated you to go through the program.
Rich: I had been involved at the Vineyard for a while, leading a small group as well as some classes and workshops. I had also helped with student ministries, and a lot of behind-the-scenes serving: working at barbecues, organizing events, shoveling snow.
But Jesus was asking me to press more deeply into leadership—it had been coming up in prayer, and someone had even prophesied over Jill and me once or twice about planting a church. I had been resisting it, but when we said yes to Residency+, it was because I was ready to try to say yes to leadership.
I was secretly really excited to explore the idea of church planting someday. But I also wanted to grow as a small group and men’s ministry leader. I wanted to speak into men’s lives and help them walk through the same stuff I walked through, but didn’t know how to do that well, yet.
MV: How about you, Jill?
Jill: I’d been on staff as the junior high youth pastor at the Duluth Vineyard for 5 years, and an intern for 2 years before that. I had started interning as a new Christian, so I went through VLI to get a good Biblical foundation. Even so, I felt like I needed more practical knowledge about leadership and discipleship.
There were just some areas where I was struggling. I realized that my ministry would flounder if I didn’t press into those places. I had people on my team, but I wasn’t sure they were the right people. We needed better ways to disciple and their parents. And I felt like my preaching had plateaued and I wasn’t sure how to get better. All those reasons led me to enroll in Residency+.
When our cohort started, our baby was only about 6 months old, and I think the only thing that made us say yes to it was that we both saw so clearly where we needed to grow. For me and for the sake of my team at least, that need felt urgent. When a leader stops growing, other people get stuck too.
MV: Ok, so let’s talk about the course itself. What was the journey of going through Residency+ like?
Rich: We began with spiritual formation—our very first session was about really understanding and receiving the love of God. That was huge. I was surprised at how much it impacted me, ad how necessary it was to learn that before we could do anything else. We talked about how your ministry—whatever you’re working on—isn’t really the project God’s working on. In leadership, you are God’s primary project. That first quarter was all about me as God’s project. And that is still impacting my life now over a year later.
Jill: I remember that later in the course we read The Leader’s Journey. It talks about is diffusing the anxiety in a system by being the calmest person in the room. That’s really helpful, but it flowed directly from the beginning of the course: having your identity really well established in Christ so you can be peaceful during conflicts, knowing that God is doing something bigger than you.
Rich: God was clearly at work every single time we met, in every book and topic we covered, with every person in the class. We would leave each session filled with all this emotional and spiritual energy because of what God had been doing. God was clearly at work every single time we met, in every book and topic we covered, with every person in the class. We would leave each session filled with all this emotional and spiritual energy because of what God had been doing.
God was clearly at work every single time we met, in every book and topic we covered, with every person in the class. We would leave each session filled with all this emotional and spiritual energy because of what God had been doing.
Jill: Residency+ could be really tough at times, because it kept challenging the core of my identity. Typically, after we left residency, Rich and I would get in a big fight [laughs], because it was digging up so much stuff that we couldn’t process all in one sitting. We had to go to Jesus and ask him to sort it out, to show us what to focus on and what he really wanted to change.
One thing you learn to do in the class is notice where you have resistance to something God might be saying or doing in your heart. Then once you notice it, you can ask God to help you see why you’re resistant, and help you yield to him in that place. I definitely experienced that, and it hurt—nobody likes being called out on stuff all the time. I would feel like, “Leave me alone. I’m fine. I’m doing the best I can.” But it really helps you grow. And pain is not bad.
Rich: I was consistently landing in places where my heart and mind had never been before—challenging my ideas of what was true. I didn’t have much theological or biblical background, so I was learning a lot of core truth about what following Jesus really means. I loved that people were willing to push hard to bring the truth to the center for me, instead of just letting me keep my bad theology.
I worked through a lot of insecurity during the course. The big picture of leadership started coming into focus, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a bigger playground than I can play in. I’ll just go back to leading my little small group now.” But God kept inviting me to follow where he was leading, no matter how intimidating that might be. The spiritual formation focus from the start of the course had taught me to trust God enough to follow him.
Jill: Another big project God started that year was changing the way our family works. When the course starts, they tell you that you have to be willing to make space in your life to actually do the work. But before we started the course, our lives were so full that we had no space to grow. Residency+ forced us to reprioritize it all: our time, our finances, our relationships, everything. Now, in the last few months, we’ve been intentionally setting our house in order so that if God told us to go plant somewhere, we actually could.
MV: So now that Residency+ is over for you, what fruit do you see from it in your lives?
Rich: Residency+ taught me that I didn’t know as much as I thought, and pushed me to places where I didn’t have experience or felt uncomfortable, like evangelism. I had had bad experiences with it, and I was generally resistant to it. But when we dug into evangelism, it changed everything about how I saw kingdom ministry and moving with the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine being where I was before Residency and trying to go out and do something something bigger. I just wasn’t ready. Now I’ve grown a lot emotionally and spiritually, and I have a much firmer sense of God calling me to lead. I think I’m ready for whatever’s next.
Jill: God has also given me more leadership tools and a deeper knowledge of myself as his child and as a leader. I feel much calmer about developing leaders than I did. I know more what’s essential, where before I was just kind of doing what I thought was best, but I didn’t really have a plan for how to help people grow. Student ministries has become a lot healthier as I’ve slowed down and focused on discipling my volunteers and leaders.
Without Residency+ I don’t think I would have gotten there yet. I would still be messing up and hurting people in the same ways. The question I kept asking myself was, “Do you change and learn to be more like Jesus? Or do you stay the same and hurt people till you are not doing ministry anymore?” Eventually, God would have worked that out, but Residency did it faster. [laughs]
Rich: …Like God was turbo-charging the process. I feel like there’s no way I would have been able to move forward in any sort of leadership way without doing something like this. I had spent probably 30 of my 36 years not doing healthy things or following Jesus at all. Without some pretty intentional, structured way to change that, I don’t see how I could have been able to lean further towards planting a church or being a healthy leader.
The Petersons are continuing to challenge themselves to lead better in their ministries at the Duluth Vineyard, and they are continuing to explore when and where God is calling them to become church planters. How might God be calling you to get involved with Residency+?