The Church Doctor® Report

Jesus' Farm Club:  

Backfilling Education   

 VOL. 8 NO. 1 Jan./Feb. 2012
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Kent Hunter leads Church Doctor Ministries, which is committed to helping churches, ministries, and denominations catch the wave of God's mission in the 21st century. Kent has worked with churches on six continents. He is the author of The J-Dog Journey: Where Is Life?, a postmodern story for young adults seeking God's direction (available at 

Featured Service 

SEND North America is a ten-month training experience for young adults seeking to find God's plan for their lives. SEND focuses on discipleship and missional training. Young adults live in community by gender, are taught by carefully-selected, experienced teachers, participate in weekly hands-on ministry, are provided a mentor, participate in an out-of-country mission trip, attend accountability groups, worship together, and discover that Christianity is a lot of fun.


SEND North America is now taking applications for the September 2012 - June 2013 training season. Check it out at


 HCT! Movement     


Become a Healthy Churches Thrive! network church by participating in a 24-month Spiritual Pilgrimage led by a team of guides: two diagnostic Church Doctors, spiritual health metrics analyst, a certified ministry coach, an intercession coach, and a pilgrimage coordinator. Learning Community DVDs provide teaching to process missional culture. This is a spiritual movement within your church entirely funded outside your church budget.

For more information, check out

June 2012 UK Immersion Experience: A Holy Infection 

Catch what can't be taught.


June 2012


Limit 20


  • Experience 1st century missional culture, shaped for the 21st century.
  • Relationally connect with those who live it.
  • Discover how a church turns from attractional outreach, yet maintains attractive, relevant and engaging worship.
  • Experience the European origins of the contemporary movement reaching postmodern young adults.
  • Participate in "Love Sheffield."
  • Catch what God is doing and spreading throughout the world.

"You will never be the same!"

            ~ participant in 2011

Watch the

Now Accepting Inquiries for June 2012

Fill out our online application: 

or e-mail Jason for more information 

Download Dr. Hunter's New E-book: The Future Is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century
  • Is there a coming Awakening in North America?
  • Why do so many Christians express "holy discontent?"
  • Why is there a spiritual restlessness in so many churches today?
  • What are the signs that North American culture may have reached the extreme of secularization?
  • How are churches changing their decision-making processes?
  • What is the future of denominations? Why are they being replaced with networks?
  • What elements of postmodern culture is God using for world evangelization?
  • What is the new wave for raising up church leaders?
  • Why must churches "agree to disagree" and cooperate to conquer their cultures for God's Kingdom?


Download The Future is Now here 

Immersion, Toledo, Ohio, October 4-8, 2012

Limit 20


Experience the coming spiritual awakening at one of the flashpoints of where God is moving.

  • Preparatory reading before the event.
  • Briefing by two Church Doctors prior to the immersion experience.
  • Debriefing each day to help you process what God is going.
  • Guidance to develop an Action Plan specific to your church.
  • Participate in "Love Toledo."
  • Witness accountability groups.
  • Experience "white-hot" worship.
  • Learn how to turn your church inside out.
Now Accepting Inquiries for October 2012

E-mail Jason for more information
Challenging Young Adults to Find God's Plan to Change Their World: The J-Dog Journey: Where Is Life?


  • Give a divine spark to your social networking.
  • Tell your story...change the world.
  • Don't underestimate God's power in you!
  • Let Jesus lead you to the adventure of a lifetime.
  • Don't play church, grab real faith.
  • Find your focus, maximize your mission, make a difference.
  • Is God inviting you to make a living, make a difference, or both?
  • Are you chosen for living a life that will outlast it?
  • Maybe you're not part of the problem. But, how do you know if God wants you to be a part of His solution?
Download The J-Dog Journey here

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Wayne is like many pastors. He has led a church for twenty years: "Long enough to learn what I didn't know, grow through experience, and realize ministry is great...and tough - all at the same time," he says.


"I remember when I first went to seminary," Wayne reminisced. "I was fresh out of college. I'd been involved in outreach activities at my local church during high school. I even went on a mission trip to Haiti. It was awesome! During college, I worked part-time at a small Bible church. I served in youth ministry and led several kids to Christ. I also helped with know, evangelism."


Wayne paused and looked out the window of his office. I could tell he was carefully pondering how he would say what came next.


"You know," he said, with a partial smile, "I was really fired up for God. I mean, I was enthused about ministry. Then I went to seminary, and...I didn't know...I just...I guess I lost the fire. You know what I mean?"


The Accredited Maze 


Many pastors know exactly what Wayne means. Somehow, over the last few centuries, Christianity the movement became Christianity the program. In the process, the demand for higher educated clergy began to dominate the landscape.


What's wrong with education? Didn't Jesus say, in the Great Commission, "...and teach them all these things I have commanded you."? Yes! However, Jesus was talking about disciples, not students. Aren't they one and the same? Yes and no! Jesus grew disciples in the context of a relationship, not an institution. He taught them through on-the-job training, not classrooms. He modeled ministry in action, he did not lecture in theory. Jesus tested his disciples by sending them out, not through exams and papers.


Somehow the academic training, for many, has become a means to an unintended end: "I went to seminary because it was the hoop to jump through to get the required degree to get the license (approval, certification) I needed to actually do what God called me to do," Wayne said. The seminary is the means to get the key to the office. Consequently, the phrase, "...cooperate and graduate."


In the history of many seminaries, the system was "enhanced" by accreditation. This one-size-fits-all control mechanism seemed like a good idea at the time. Several of those in the New Testament, called Apostles, might not have made it.

Demotivated, Bankrupt, and Disrupted  


For Wayne, the fire went out. He  lost his motivation while attending seminary. His life had been redirected from hands-on ministry to an environment of books, lectures, papers, exams - academia. Much of it is good stuff to learn - but it becomes a fire-quenching removal from interaction with people. When the excitement of ministry to people is removed, the atmosphere becomes dry and lifeless. The lifeblood of ministry comes from seeing the power of God at work in the lives of those you touch in Jesus' name. Demotivation is a spiritual disease that robs ministry vitality. It is a form of religious, institutional dry rot.


Like many others, Wayne left seminary with a serious debt. In his first small church, he was paid a modest salary. With a family of four, and a stay-at-home wife, the indebtedness was crippling.


Seminary is a costly venture. It is expensive to maintain an institution with tenured faculty. In the "new economy" seminaries are beginning to look like the local post office - an idea with an economic model that just doesn't work anymore.


These realities have given rise to the growing phenomenon of second career seminary students. These incredibly brave souls are those who feel God's call in midlife. They often leave home, their church family, their jobs, uproot their children from their schools, and train for a ministry position that requires years to repay.


"There's something just not right with the system," reflects Wayne. Perhaps it is time to reconsider a model that is much closer to the pattern reflected by the New Testament Church. It is a model that motivated large numbers of people to be involved in ministry with a mission zeal many churches would like to recapture.


The Rise of the Farm Club

All of this sounds a little "anti-academic." Some would call it "seminary bashing." There is a place for advanced education. God isn't against knowledge. There is a place - an important place - for the seminary. The real challenge is that the seminary is sequentially out of place.


What is God doing next? How will God enhance the church in its mission to make disciples? How can more people who sense God's call be adequately equipped for service?


God is already at work! It begins at your church. Increasingly, we see churches with a seamless growth and service track for those who sense God's calling. These churches have a healthy and thriving culture of discipling. In this seamless system, disciples are discipling others. The culture is one in which, if I'm a Sunday school teacher (for example), I just know that one of my core values is to look for, find, and invite someone who I will equip to be a Sunday school teacher. I will intuitively follow Jesus' relational approach to provide the challenge: "Come follow me." Today it might look like this: "Mary, you know I teach Sunday school. I could use some help. Would you hang out with me in Sunday school and be my helper?" As God directs and blesses, my goal is to multiply myself, and, over time, equip Mary to be a Sunday school teacher (who will "catch" the culture in a way that she, too, will multiply herself).


The seamless "farm club" works like this: Step #1: Discipleship involves many people in part-time, volunteer ministry. Step #2: Ministry partners who feel called to grow to the next step become more involved. Step #3: The leadership of the church watches for those God is raising up and nurtures them. Step #4: As God grows their calling to serve at the next level, ministry partners are offered a position as "high-capacity volunteers." In this stage, they work almost full-time and are treated, in every respect, like staff. Step #5: Ministry partners are offered a part-time, paid position on staff. Step #6: If God confirms this calling with fruit, a full-time, paid position is offered. This process develops home-grown staff."


Another route is increasingly being offered for young adults. Some of those young adults are just out of high school. Others have completed a few years of college, but are unsure of their direction. Others are in their mid-20s and have worked several jobs, but sense a desire to go deeper and learn more about God's plan for them. Several hands-on, ten-month, boot camp experiences for young adults are springing up around the world. Josh Humberger is the leader of SEND North America, one of these training experiences. Josh says, "This type of training is for young adults who aren't sure about their direction in life but want to test God's calling. They experience several different kinds of ministry and learn about which ministry God is calling them to do."

What about seminary? I met Ben in England several years ago. He went through one of these ten-month boot camps. Then the church hired Ben on staff, part-time. This led to a full-time position. Ben served in that position for a number of years. Through the experience, he came to realize he wanted more training, moving toward ordination.


Step #7: Ben is "backfilling" his on-the-job-training, boot camp experience with a seminary education. This is the same process for those who have completed steps 1-6, mentioned above. Some do this "backfilling" part-time, some full-time. Some do it almost entirely online. Most do it while they remain in ministry.


This places seminary in the right sequencing position. It will require seminaries to retool for what God is doing. If they add this dimension to their offerings, God will raise up even more well-trained, Christian leaders and provide a powerful, well-equipped, well-educated workforce for the Kingdom in this generation.

Ten Key Thoughts About Ministry Training  

  1. Every Christian is a trainer. Every Christian is training. Every day. This is the biblical code of multiplication.
  2. Equipping Christians for ministry begins with a discipling culture within your church.
  3. A discipling culture is developed by those who are consistently exposed to missional (1) values, (2) beliefs, (3) attitudes, (4) priorities, and (5) worldviews.
  4. Growing ministry partners is primarily relational, not institutional.
  5. Growing ministry partners occurs primarily by modeling and is reinforced by academic learning.
  6. Motivation for ministry occurs by seeing God at work through you, as you do ministry.
  7. Development of ministry partners flourishes in a church that has a seamless and porous environment of growth opportunities of service.
  8. Churches that develop ministry partners establish a "farm club" of potential, future workers.
  9. The "farm club" for ministry growth includes disciplers, disciples, part-time workers, high-capacity volunteers, part-time paid workers, full-time paid workers, and full-time paid workers who attend seminary part-time.
  10. The proper time for seminary training is not at the beginning of the growth-to-service continuum, but on the backside of the on-the-job experience. Rather than frontloading seminary education, it should be backfilled.

Dell. Kristina. "I Owe U." Time Magazine, October 31, 2011.  


Hunter, Kent R. "20/20 Vision: What the North American Church May Look Like in 10 Years." The Church Doctor Report. Volume 6 No. 1, January 2010.


Hunter, Kent R. Equipped to Serve: Jesus' School of Discipleship. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2001 (audio resource).


Hunter, Kent R. The Future is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century Church. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011 (ebook).


Hunter, Kent R. The J-Dog Journey: Where Is Life?. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011 (ebook).


Hunter, Kent R. "Your Church Staff: Asset or Liability? The Invisible Hole in Your Church's Financial Bucket" The Church Doctor Report. Volume 6 No. 2, March 2010.


McIntosh, Gary. Staff Your Church for Growth: Building Team Ministry in the 21st Century. Ada, MI: BakerBooks, 2000.


Westing, Harold J. Church Staff Handbook: How to Build an Effective Ministry Team. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997.