What is the Harvest Training Center for Church Planting?
The Harvest Training Center is an four month pastoral residency at Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elgin Campus in the suburbs of Chicago. By God’s grace, Harvest Bible Chapel has grown under the leadership of Senior Pastor James MacDonald from a group of eighteen people in 1988 to multi-campus church. At the end of 2011, seventy-seven churches have been planted or transitioned by Harvest Bible Fellowship, the church planting ministry of Harvest Bible Chapel.
What is the purpose of the Harvest Training Center?
The purpose of the Harvest Training Center for Church Planting is to train and equip godly, gifted men to become effective and fruitful senior pastors of Harvest Bible Chapels.
Do you train associate pastors and/or worship leaders?
No. Our main focus is training for the role of the senior pastor.
How is this different from seminary?
Seminaries are not churches. They cannot provide everything that a young man needs in order to become a successful pastor and leader of God’s people. Relatively few seem equipped with significant leadership and management skills to become senior pastors. This is because a man does not learn how to lead by reading a book. Rather, leaders beget leaders; preachers beget preachers; and church planters beget church planters. So the Training Center is quite different from seminary. We seek to bridge the gap that exists between the academy and the church. Rather than duplicating what you learned in seminary, we build on it. The training is practical, hands-on and geared to the needs of the local church. We focus on four primary areas: Harvest enculturation, preaching, leadership and church planting. As much as possible, we follow an “action learning” model, where you learn by doing. This is not an additional year of seminary. (For more see Harvest Training Center.)
Do all Harvest church planters go through the Training Center?
Yes, though the Training Center was designed with recent seminary graduates in mind, if a man has already been a senior pastor and is familiar with the burden of preaching and trials of leadership, then we would not expect him to go through the full eight-month program. A shorter, customized residency is available for experienced senior pastors.
Who are the instructors?
The primary instructors are:
James MacDonald, Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
Rick Donald, Assistant Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
Kent Shaw, Executive Director, Harvest Bible Fellowship
Kirk VanMaanen, Director of International Church Planting, Harvest Bible Fellowship
Bill Molinari, Director of Training & Recruiting, Harvest Bible Fellowship
We have regular input from many of the Harvest Bible Chapel senior pastors, along with various staff members and elders. We also get occasional opportunities to spend time with notable Christian leaders outside of Harvest.
What does a typical week look like?
The typical week includes four days of instruction, coaching, group discussion, guided reading, case studies, sermon preparation and church plant planning. Significant ministry involvement is also expected on the weekends and some evenings, including opportunities to preach and teach. Occasional field trips take us out of the office for one or more days.
Is there homework?
Not homework, per se. Almost everything we do is accomplished during the day. Occasionally, residents may study for a sermon in the evening, or catch up on reading. Residents are expected to be part of a small group and to take part in elder meetings.
How long does the program last?
Fall term: September through December at Harvest Bible Fellowship in Elgin, Illinois and January is an internship at a Harvest Bible Chapel
Spring term: February through April at Harvest Bible Fellowship in Elgin, Illinois and then on the field in planting location with regularly scheduled web training and weekly coaching
How many residents do you accept?
The Harvest Training Center is highly specialized. In order to maximize the amount of personal attention each resident receives, we admit only a select number of qualified men each year.
Are you looking for a certain personality profile?
We have seen God use different personalities to plant healthy, growing churches and do not subscribe to a stereotypical view of the church-plant pastor.
What we do look for, and what the high calling of a senior pastor requires, is strength in five key areas:
A candidate must demonstrate godly character, worthy of emulation (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). His life should be marked by urgency, discipline, and resilience. He should be humble and loving toward people. Brokenness is also key; we look for men who “walk with a limp.”
A candidate must have a firm grasp of Christian doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). He must be able to teach sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). He must also line up with our philosophy of ministry.
A candidate must have a preaching gift (1 Timothy 4:13-15). It probably will not be polished at this early stage in his ministry; there may even be some rough edges. But the gift should be evident.
A candidate must be an effective leader (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). He must have the ability to compel others by his words and example.
A candidate must have some practical ministry experience, preferably in a full-time capacity at a local church. We have found that the rich get richer when it comes to ministry experience.
How much formal theological training is required?
We require a minimum of thirty hours of Bible and theology on the graduate level. Preference is given to those who possess a Master of Divinity degree. Exceptions may be made for candidates with significant ministry experience, and exceptional preaching and leadership gifts.
Can residents work in addition to training?
Due to the rigorous nature of the program, it is not feasible for residents to work in addition to their studies.
How do residents provide for their families?
This is a full-time paid residency. Housing is also provided for the duration of the program. Currently, these total $3,500 per month. Residents are required to raise a portion of their own support, as a way of demonstrating their commitment to church planting and as an exercise in fundraising.
How much time do residents spend with their core groups while in the program?
Shepherding a core group while going through the Training Center is an uneasy tension at times. Residents know they need the training, but they also feel the pressure of growing the core. To release that tension, residents will begin to visit their people toward the end of the fall term and move to their field in February. They may also take advantage of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. In addition, depending on the length of time away, we may encourage and help facilitate recording video updates to send to core groups on a regular basis. The primary focus, however in the Fall term will be training and equipping.
Does the Training Center cover the expenses of visiting the core group?
Travel expenses are covered by the core group. Thus, it is important to incorporate the church as soon as possible and to apply for charitable status, so donations can be received. The Harvest Bible Fellowship can receive donations temporarily on the church’s behalf until incorporation is secured.
Are women admitted to the program?
No. Harvest Bible Chapel is a complementarian church, joyfully affirming the traditional, biblical roles for men and women. Since the Bible reserves the role of senior pastor for men only (1 Timothy 2:15; cp. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35), and since our mission is to train senior pastors, only men are admitted to the program.
How are residents’ wives involved in training and pre-launch ministry?
Since many residents have young families, most wives spend a significant portion of each day caring for their children. Yet we believe strongly in a team approach to ministry and it is essential for residents’ wives to grow alongside their husbands. During their residency, couples are part of a small groups and wives have monthly book studies, community events and accountability groups to aid in spiritual formation, and events are held which provide opportunities to dialogue with experienced pastors’ wives. Those who want additional involvement are encouraged to be part of Women’s Ministry.
Can wives work outside the home?
Yes, although couples need to count the cost. The program is just eight months in duration, four of which are in Elgin and opportunities for wives to learn and grow alongside of their husbands, and to form significant relationships with the other wives, need to be of very high importance. But we understand that certain circumstances may make working outside the home necessary.
What are the educational options for children?
The three major options are home school (inherently flexible), private school (Harvest Christian Academy onsite), or public school (within walking distance of resident housing). There are advantages and challenges unique to each, and no one choice fits all resident families.
Does Harvest Bible Chapel belong to a particular denomination?
No. We are a conservative, evangelical, non-denominational church. We believe in planting autonomous local Harvest Bible Chapels with their own pastors and elders.
Can residents choose where to plant?
Provided a core group of at least ten adults has come together, yes. Without an existing core group, residents may be assigned a core group, which requires flexibility regarding the location. Proximity to existing Harvest Bible Chapels can also be a location factor. We are very unlikely to plant a new church within half an hour’s drive from an existing Harvest.
How much autonomy do Harvest churches have?
For the first year after a church is launched, the senior pastor and two staff members of the Harvest Bible Fellowship serve as the elders of that church. This gives the pastor time to observe the character of the men in his church—to see who might be qualified to be an elder. After the first year, elders he has chosen will be formally installed and HBF staff members withdraw, leaving the church autonomous with its own elder board. From that point forward, Harvest Bible Fellowship leads Harvest church plants by influence, not mandate. We are a fellowship of churches gathered around a common vision, not a denomination.
Do Harvest churches have obligations to Harvest Bible Fellowship once planted?
Yes. To continue the work of planting and equipping additional churches, we expect each of our churches to commit 5% of their annual budget to Harvest Bible Fellowship, to be counted as part of their own missions budget.
Is training open to those not inclined to become a Harvest senior pastor?
No. Given the significant time and resources poured into each man accepted into the program, it is our expectation that the relationship that begins here will be long-term, resulting in the planting or transitioning of a new Harvest church.
What is the difference between a church plant and an additional campus in the Harvest model?
The Harvest Bible Fellowship plants autonomous local churches all over the world. But mature Harvest churches may choose to open an additional campus in a nearby city as a way of expanding their own ministry. In this event the campus is under the authority of the elders of the church that opened it, and is considered part of the same church. For instance, the original Harvest Bible Chapel has multiple campuses: Rolling Meadows, Elgin, Niles, Crystal Lake, Chicago North and Aurora. These campuses have one senior pastor and one elder board, and are considered one church with six campuses.
Where do residents live?
Harvest Bible Fellowship has dedicated apartments from a nearby complex rented for Training Center residents. The apartments are not adjacent one another, but scattered throughout the complex, providing both proximity for the wives and a measure of personal space.
Do you provide health insurance?
Not at this time. We can assist you in finding an affordable plan, if you desire coverage while in the program.
Where are you located?
The Harvest Training Center is located at the Elgin Campus of Harvest Bible Chapel (1000 North Randall Road, Elgin, Illinois, 60123). Being located inside the church provides easy access to all ministries and leaders of the church. We are in a suburb of the greater Chicago area, with interstate access to the city.
How do I apply?
The application process is self-managed through one of two means.
You may complete and submit the
. Additional documentation and reference forms are to be downloaded and completed as needed, then assembled into one completed package to be mailed to Harvest Bible Fellowship.
Training Center application
and reference forms (
form. Complete and assemble all components required and mail in one package to Harvest Bible Fellowship.
What happens next?
Submitted packets are reviewed by the leaders of the Harvest Bible Fellowship. Applicants are notified within a month if they may advance to the next step, a series of phone interviews regarding motivation for church planting, doctrine, and character. If the process continues, applicant couples attend interviews onsite, after which the final selection decision is made.
How long does the application process take?
Decisions are generally reached within two months of receipt of application packets and initial contact.
Is there a deadline for application?
Yes. Since space is limited, applicants are encouraged to submit their packet as early as possible.
What if I apply to the program, but my plans change?
If your plans change, and you wish to remove your application from consideration, please notify us as soon as possible.
What if I have questions that are not answered here?
Contact Harvest Bible Fellowship at 847.222.9522 or
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