How a Church Residency Shaped Me for Church Planting

November 17, 2023

How a Church Residency Shaped Me for Church Planting


“Alright Jon, I think I’ll plant a church. What are we thinking as far as the timeline? Next year or something?”

How ignorant of me right? I was a 21-year-old kid with a calling and some zeal. I felt called to plant a church, and the people around me affirmed that they could see that in me, what more did I need? I thought I was ready.

My college pastor slowed me down. “Wait, wait – let’s take a minute. Why don’t you step into the college residency and get some ministry experience under your belt?” Jon explained that as a college resident, I would come on staff at Mercy Hill Church, and be a minister to college students at my alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University. A couple of my goals would be to meet new students, connect them to college groups, and raise up group leaders. Oh, and I needed to support raise my salary.

What I Gained from Residency
Let me share with you a few of the ways God used the residency program at Mercy Hill to grow me in my walk with the Lord and my personal leadership.

A Place to Make Mistakes
This is probably the most valuable aspect of my ministry training as a resident. I was given room to try, fail, adjust, succeed, and repeat. My leaders knew that I was inexperienced, and they also knew that a big part of building a leader is in creating an environment for an aspiring leader to fail. The kind of tasks given to me could be characterized as “low risk—low reward” or “low risk—high reward”. In other words, if I ever completely messed up, my failures weren’t big enough to derail any of the largest and most important goals of our church. And trust me, I made plenty of mistakes.

The Skill of Building Teams
When I began leading the college ministry at A&T, there were three students who were faithfully attending our church from that university. A large part of what I was called to do was lead students to entrust to other faithful students who will teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2). One primary method we used to do this was in training small group leaders to lead a sermon-based discussion and take steps of discipleship. As you may imagine, that required inviting students to volunteer their time to help build a ministry with the hope that it would outlive them.

The Ability to Cast Vision (and Raise Money)
I gained the ability to construct and cast vision. At that time, the way I built that skill was in raising money. Since I was responsible for raising the entirety of my monthly support, it was imperative that I became skilled in casting the kind of vision that was easy to connect the dots between their financial investment and kingdom advancement. Since every church planter needs to confidently raise funds my time within the residency continues to pay off as I prepare to one day lead a church.

It’s been five years since I began my residency at Mercy Hill, and I utilize many of the lessons I’ve learned from that time every day. As the campus pastor of one of our 6 campuses, I’m a better leader because my church to the time to develop me as a follower of Jesus and as a leader. For me, the residency was a great tool that God used to encourage me to take one more step toward the path of being a church planter. While I’m not there just yet, I’m grateful that I had leaders who were wise enough to develop me and continue to do so, until it’s time for me to be sent out to expand the kingdom through church planting.

– Neeko Williams (Campus Pastor – Clifton Road Campus)