“Our church feels challenged to call out the called. That is my heart,” said Ronny Marriott, pastor of First Baptist Church Burleson, Texas.
For the past six years, FBC Burleson has been helping the next generation to discern God’s call and providing a space for them to grow in their chosen field. Marriott estimates 20-30 young ministers, most under the age of 35, have completed the two-year residency program since it began.
“We keep hearing time and time again about the shortage of ministers,” said Marriott, who also is the president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. “So many churches are in need of pastors. If the size of the need continues to grow, we’ll be losing churches. But God is still calling people into ministry, and we feel called to equip them.”
The church offers two tracks: Pastors in Residence, for those interested in serving in senior, youth, children’s or other pastoral positions; and Artists in Residence, for those interested in serving as worship pastors, production leaders, instrumentalists or in other creative roles.
Program residents are mentored and study leadership while also putting their skills to use. They take an active role in preaching, performing pastoral duties, leading worship and assisting in other areas. The program is educational but also goes beyond learning to practice.
“We utilize our residents a lot on Sunday morning. They’re on stage, they’re helping run things, they’re putting in those reps, doing frontline ministry,” Marriott said. “It’s also a part of our mission statement to be a regional equipping church. We currently foster two local churches, and our residents gain lots of experience here too. We are also helping support several other churches through pulpit supply and shared training opportunities. It’s a blessing for these smaller churches to have help from our resident staff.”
“The community is great,” said current resident Timothy Edmond. “First Burleson is really encouraging and committed to developing your ministry skills. It’s great working with members and putting to use the things you’ve studied. Also, you’re working with other ministers that have many years of experience. Their willingness to come alongside you and to pass down all that knowledge they have is a blessing.”
Safe space to learn
Edmond completed the program first as an undergraduate student and has returned to serve a second time during his doctoral studies.
“This program is especially good for those of us in school or working another part-time or full-time job,” Edmond said. “It’s a great opportunity to put into practice what you’re studying.”
Residents typically work part-time and receive a stipend, but many go above and beyond what is required.
“I can’t tell you how great these residents are,” Marriott said. “They work so hard because they are called. It’s a blessing for them, but it is also a blessing for our church. We help them avoid pitfalls. We are a safe space for them to fail, but fail small and learn from those mistakes so they will be better equipped when they go on to lead in other churches.”