Southbrook’s LAUNCH Ministry Residency Program is funded by the church’s daily operating budget—because Southbrook puts its dollars where its heart is.
Breakthrough Ministry Residency Program
Can the church adapt to meet the needs of the next generation? Can it give them mentorship, hands-on experiences, and healthy balance—to help them grow in their faith and to equip them to disciple and lead others?
That was the problem Southbrook Church in Weddington, N.C., hoped to solve with its LAUNCH Ministry Residency Program.
LAUNCH is a 12-month, full-time, paid program that helps people learn about day-to-day ministry and get real-world experience. Since 2021, the program has trained four ministry leaders and sent them to serve as a church planter, a missionary, a pastor, and a student discipler.
But when LAUNCH was still being developed, the church leadership wondered how they could get the congregation behind such a big program. Would the people fund it? Would anyone sign up? Would residents actually get good training?
Here’s how Southbrook put their dollars on mission to make the LAUNCH program happen—and how your church can too.
If you know someone who would make a great LAUNCH resident—or if you’d like to be one yourself!—find application info here.
“How Do We Put This Out to Our Body?”
“When we talk about making disciples as a church, we don’t want it to be confined to the four walls of this building. We want it to go out of here,” says Shane Freeman, Southbrook’s lead pastor.
That’s why Southbrook’s mission is to make disciples who make a big deal of Jesus. They believe every member is a minister, and some people are called to be leaders. This philosophy comes from Ephesians 4, which is about equipping the saints to do the work of ministry.
In 2019, Southbrook’s leadership team started thinking about a program for those feeling called to full-time ministry to learn about leadership, discover what interests them, and train in specific areas.
Southbrook’s ministry development director, Raina Newman, says, “Our lead pastor started having conversations with the elders to vision-cast with everyone on staff, saying, ‘Imagine bringing in residents and investing in the call God has placed in their lives. Imagine us passing on to them all God has taught us to equip them for a life of ministry.’ Everyone knew it would require time and energy, but we were all excited and onboard.”
It was important to the leadership team that residents learn a healthy model of ministry. So the program would first immerse residents into all areas of ministry—groups, worship, production, family ministry, event planning, volunteer management. During the second part of the year, residents would hone in on their areas of interest.
“We have a discussion about the area of ministry they are feeling drawn toward. We ask, ‘What are one to two areas you would like to spend more time in?’” Raina says. “Then we start doing an individualized plan. So they could split their time in two different areas, or maybe learn more about pastoral shepherding.”
An important part of the plan was that residents would be funded, salaried employees with benefits. They would not have to raise their own funds. As Raina says, “We all know ministry is a job and a half,” and this way, residents would be completely part of the team.
So the LAUNCH program would be part of Southbrook’s daily operating budget rather than a separate ministry bucket.
The idea was that involving the congregation in backing the residents financially also would help the congregation feel involved and invested. But would the congregation buy in?
Yes! Going into another ministry year, the leaders presented LAUNCH as part of Southbrook’s core vision because it tied closely to their disciple-making mission.
The congregation has fully funded Southbrook’s operating budget, which includes the LAUNCH Residency Program, each year since the program began.
In other words, the people put their dollars toward what mattered to them—training new leaders to further the gospel.
Learning Through Experience
The first LAUNCH residents came in August 2021, one of whom was David Wright, the son of a Southbrook member.
“David was a seminary graduate student and was like, ‘I don’t know if I should go straight into church ministry or I should try you guys.’ He decided it was wise to have a stepping stone to learn more about himself,” says Raina.
That’s exactly what the program was made for—to be a bridge for upcoming church leaders as they figured out how they wanted to serve.
At the end of the year, “There was sadness, but we were like, ‘Guys, the whole purpose was for us to launch them out.’ We love them, and it was hard to not keep them.”
David was sent to serve as a groups and young adult pastor at a church in the D.C. area. And the second resident, Jordan Coates, was preparing to go back to the mission field.
Coming off a successful first year, Southbrook wanted to do the second year better. But initially they had a hard time getting people to sign up.
“We had very few candidates. I felt discouraged,” Raina says. But the eventual result was encouraging. Both 2022 residents came out of Southbrook’s congregation. And both had served in ministry before, giving that year’s residency a “relaunch” feel.
Samantha Meyer entered the program as a 30-year-old former missionary. When COVID-19 shut borders and grounded planes, she wasn’t sure what to do next. And 45-year-old Tim Hale had served as a pastor for more than 20 years, but his most recent ministry experience caused him to doubt whether God could even use him.
For both Samantha and Tim, the LAUNCH program helped them find their footing and see where they wanted to serve next. And as it turned out, their next place was Southbrook. At the end of the year, Southbrook offered them both full-time jobs. Samantha is the student-ministry assistant and Tim is a community pastor at Southbrook’s first church plant.
Raina laughs about this “failure to launch” the residents. “The program’s called LAUNCH! The whole idea is ‘get you out of here, go.’ And yet God has used it to fill holes in our own ministry. It’s been a way of his provision for key pieces even here.”
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“Does Our Budget Reflect What We Value?”
The LAUNCH program is now in its third year. There were eight applicants—two became residents, and a third was a perfect fit for an existing opening in Southbrook’s children’s ministry, so they hired her full time. LAUNCH is still part of the daily operating budget, and the leadership regularly updates the congregation on how it’s going, including during Sunday offering moments.
“We would love to eventually grow the number of candidates. And we hope to create a coalition of churches that can support one another,” Raina says.
That dream is already starting to turn into reality. One of the 2021 residents talks with Raina regularly about how their churches can partner.
“I was just on a Zoom call with him like, ‘I need some help with leader development. How do I get this started?’ So we still have a great relationship.”
For Southbrook Church—and for Parable as it helps manage the church’s budget—the LAUNCH program is a story about God’s people working together to further the Kingdom.
“Looking at our finances, you see what we value. We value raising up leaders and sending them out and Kingdom work. When we do our budget every year, our team prays about that and looks at, ‘Are we fulfilling the mission God has given us? And if somebody saw our budget, does it reflect what we value?’”
Know Someone Who Would Make a Great Resident?
Southbrook’s LAUNCH Ministry Residency Program is for men and women who sense God’s call to full-time, vocational ministry. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow by serving on church staff in a team atmosphere.
If you know someone who would make a great resident—or if you’d like to be one yourself!—find program details, FAQs, and the application process here.