Developing a Leadership Pipelinepodcaststrategy

Training Your Team to Lead Through Others with Phil Caporale & George Probasco

Thanks for tuning into the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Lead Pastor, Phil Caporale, and Campus Pastor and Kingsway Leadership School Site Director, George Probasco, from Kingsway Church in New Jersey.

As a church leader, one of the most challenging aspects of your role can be developing leaders. While it can be difficult to identify potential leaders and provide them with the necessary training and support, neglecting this area can have serious consequences for the long-term success of the Church. Listen in as Phil and George share some practical steps that church leaders can take to invest in leadership development.

  • A critical issue. // Raising up leaders is critical because pulpits are emptying faster than we can fill them. Whether it’s because of ego, a fear of being replaced, or something else, many church leaders haven’t obeyed Ephesians 4:11-16, instead shouldering the work ourselves. We have to train others for the work of ministry without worrying that they may get more recognition or do something better than us. It’s rewarding when we can fan into flame God’s gift in someone else’s life to help them walk in God’s purpose for them. This process is part of making disciples.
  • Leader Track. // Kingsway Church launched a 10-week program called Leader Track which is an onboarding ramp for high-capacity volunteers. It helps people apply principles from the word of God on things, such as character development, creating a personal mission statement, and leading healthy teams, to all areas of their work, homes and lives.
  • Ministry Education. // Meanwhile for those interested in full-time ministry and acquiring a degree, Kingsway Church has partnered with Southeastern University (SEU) to create Kingsway Leadership School (KLS). Through KLS, Kingsway can offer 15 degrees, five of which are master’s degrees. Not only is this a more affordable option for students because they can take classes online, it also provides practical ministry experience along with their theological education.
  • Head, heart, and hands. // Kingsway Leadership School is broken down into three components: head, heart, and hands. Head represents SEU’s partnership with the church, heart is leadership and character development, and hand allows students to receive college credits through a ministry practicum. This structure allows students to continue to serve in their local churches while also getting a ministry education and hands-on experience.
  • Ministry practicum. // Because many of the students have full-time jobs, the program takes place midweek in the evening from 6-9pm. This midweek portion includes leadership and character development while Sundays are a ministry day. In their first year, students are exposed to all the different ministries at Kingsway Church and rotate through working with the various ministry leaders. Students in years two, three, and four are allowed to choose their ministry focus and the church leader in that area then becomes responsible for training that student.
  • Lead through others. // To start taking steps towards intentional leadership development in your church, look at your calendar and identify 6-8 hours where you can be investing in other people. Model this to your staff and provide them with regular, practical training so they are equipped to invest in others. Finally, as church leaders we need to make ourselves available to our staff teams and keep developing them as they develop others.

You can learn more about Kingsway Church at, or email George to learn more about Kingsway Leadership School.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Listen, I’m really excited for today’s conversation ah because it’s a great church, but it’s also a great church in New Jersey, even though it’s South Jersey. It’s not central jersey which just does not exist and so ah, you know and we’re already off to the races just only talking to people in New Jersey but so excited to have some leaders from Kingsway Church here, Phil Caporale and George Probasco, just are fantastic leaders from an incredible church. They’re they’re doing some great stuff ah, both in the you know online world with their church online and a couple physical campuses in South Jersey.

Rich Birch — They also have this really innovative partnership with Southeastern University in Lakeland Florida that we want to drill into and learn more. Ah, Phil is the lead Pastor, George is ah the leader of this school and also one of their campus pastors – welcome to the show show, guys. Glad you’re here.

Phil Caporale — Yeah, thanks for having us, Rich.

Rich Birch — Phil, why don’t we start with you. Tell us a little bit about kind of round out the picture, round out the Kingsway picture. What did I miss there? What what, you know, if people were to come to the church this weekend, what would they experience? Talk us through what, you know, give us the Kingsway flavor.

Phil Caporale — Yeah, yeah, thanks. Well um, our church’s been around a while. It started in in Camden New Jersey in 1925, so we’re just a couple years short of our hundredth anniversary.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Phil Caporale — So long, long history and ironically enough they started in a in a grocery store. And you know what they would do on the weekends is go in and take down all the produce off the shelves, canned goods, and and set up church. So before we were multi-campus or even knew it was a thing in in our history, embedded in the beginning of our church, they were set up and tear down in a grocery store. Um.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing. Like they didn’t have it 24/7; they only had it on Sundays.

Phil Caporale — Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s incredible. Wow that’s amazing.

Phil Caporale — Yeah, and then sometime later, a few decades after that, bought ah a purchased a bank in the city of Camden. We have some people in our church that will tell you stories of going to Sunday school in a vault in the bank once they purchased it…

Rich Birch — Amazing. Yeah.

Phil Caporale — …and then move to our current location in Cherry Hill in the ’70s. And and then eight years ago, it’ll be 8 years this fall, that we launched the Glassboro campus that George is the campus pastor at. And that’s been going well, been in a bunch of places in the last several years, actually 8 locations in the seven plus years. Um and if people join us on Sunday in person, online, I think one of the one of the hallmarks of our church is I think authenticity. We hear that a lot from people. It’s very warm and welcoming, people use those words a lot. And even as they’re trying to express the presence of the Lord and how they sense and feel and interact with that. So, love it. Our our heart is for this area South Jersey. Obviously we’re just ten, twelve miles outside of Philadelphia too, so consider ourselves the suburb of that city as well.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. This is gonna be a great conversation particularly around the whole leadership development issue that so many of our churches are are leaning in, and there’s a lot I want to talk about I want to make sure we we talk to folks. But George why don’t we start with you. It seems like so many churches struggle with developing leaders who are not staff. In fact, recently I was talking to a church, a senior pastor lead pastor at a church, who kind of challenged his team. He gathered them together, and this is a fairly you know thousand person, 1500 person church, that challenges leaders to get together and and asked his staff,Hey like how many of you lead volunteers who lead other volunteers. And ah it was single digit. It ended up being there was just a few of these people in our churches. Man, that just seems to be such ah ah, an issue. Ah, talk to us about this issue, George. Why is this such a critical issue for us as church leaders to be thinking about?

George Probasco — Yeah I think it’s ah important for several reasons. And by the way um, you know all credit to Pastor Phil here because what you see and what you’re going to get from from this is exactly what I’ve been learning from him over the years now.

Rich Birch — Nice.

George Probasco — I’ve been saved and and knew of my faith for about 8 years and Pastor Phil’s always been there every step of the way…

Rich Birch — Love it.

George Probasco — …and so what you hear is a little bit pastor it’s going to be from Pastor Phil.

Rich Birch — I love it.

George Probasco — So I want to say I want to say Ephesians 4 and when we don’t do Ephesians 4:11-16 we are violating the scriptures. And I think so many churches, and this is pertaining to New Jersey um you know, specifically in Assemblies of God and in our network or our fellowship, is that ah pulpits are emptying faster than we can fill them. And um, that’s an unfortunate reality. And I think if I just had to draw conclusions over the years it’s because we violated simply Ephesians 11:14-16. We have not raised up leaders. Because pastors you know, probably themselves or only had a select or a small team to do the actual work of the ministry and they were doing it themselves. And so it’s critical because you know we have churches with empty pulpits now. And we have empty positions and and there’s ah, there’s a serious need in the in in these communities for pastors and ministry leaders to preach the gospel. So.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. Phil, why are church leaders why are we tempted to not develop leaders like why, you know, why do we not do that? Like it seems because Ephesians 4 is, it is very clear. It’s not it’s not like debatable. You can’t be like, oh like I wonder what we’re supposed to do? It’s like pretty clear. But what’s those what’s the temptation. What why do you think we’re we’re tempted to not develop leaders?

Phil Caporale — Yeah, but I think part of it is not knowing how to craft the ask, for one.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Phil Caporale — You know, does it look like if if I’m a pastor, or I’m a ministry leader or director on a staff on a staff team at a church, um, there’s a little bit of that sense of responsibility. Well I was hired to do this. This is this is my job. Here’s my job description with a set list of bullet points that I have to meet some requirements on. And and while that’s true, there’s a part of all of our responsibilities, for those of us that are ministry leaders, pastors, whatever on staff at churches, to to do a part of our job, but we really want to help our our team and other churches as as the Lord allows us to to to really shift that in the sense of, Hey we’ve got to empower people.

Phil Caporale — Right back to what you and George just mentioned a moment ago – Ephesians 4 is pretty clear. You know that God gives the gifts to the church so that we can. We can pastors, evangelists, apostles, prophets, teachers um prepare the people for works of service. But if you read on and get to verses 12 through 16, particularly, there’s a lot of fruit there. Paul talks about growth, and maturity, and building up, and edification, and the body is strong, and people really find um, their groove. They use the gifts and the skills and the natural aptitudes that God’s hardwired into them to be able to um, feel that life-giving sense of purpose, being part of the body of Christ. So I think it it goes back to the the the ability and the awareness to be ah conscientious of the fact that we have to make an ask. I think it’s a little bit too, Rich, of ego that gets in the way of pastors and ministry leaders a lot of time.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s true.

Phil Caporale — If if I train somebody else that could do it as well or maybe even better than me, um, am I going to be needed? Is there is there a need for my position or for my role? So we’ve got to always fight and and and battle against that the need to be recognized, or to get the pat on the back for, you know, any kind of recognition. Um I think one of the greatest greatest things that we can experience—I know this is true of George, of our other leaders, and myself I’ve experienced this—that when you can fan the gift and the flame in somebody else’s life and you can watch them walk in the purpose that God’s designed them for, man, it’s one of the most rewarding things. And then you realize oh no, what Paul is instructing us there, is the same thing he told Timothy, right, in 2 Timothy 2:2. What you hear me say in the presence of others, teach reliable people that can go teach others. So Paul’s saying that you can have influence three clicks removed um and without ever seeing people because you’re passing on what you’ve been given.

Phil Caporale — So I think it’s those couple of things and then I think it’s also there’s not there’s not many good models. And we’re certainly far from having it all figured out. We’ve just been fortunate enough, and God’s been gracious enough to us to put people in our lives that have just said, hey come along, shadow me, let’s do this side by side. We have a little philosophy amongst our staff that, hey whenever you’re doing anything in ministry, whether you’re going to Costco’s and picking up supplies, whether you’re going on a hospital visit, you’re planning an event, take somebody with you, let somebody shadow you. And have conversation, right? So it’s that lead… it’s discipleship’s happening but it’s also developing leaders at the same time.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah I was thinking it’s not lost to me that that there’s two of you here today. I love that you’re modeling it, even in this conversation. George talk me through at Kingsway, so let’s say either you maybe in your campus specifically, or on a team in your you know in your campus you you see one of those people who are like, okay that person’s got some potential. How do you begin? What is the conversation? What’s the platform? What’s the ask for trying to move those people towards leading? What does that look like, George?

George Probasco — Yeah, so one of the things that ah that I specifically do is I try to lead through my staff. So they are really the ones having the conversations, or I am if if I’m approaching an individual in the church that I feel has leadership potential, um, what I’m doing is shoulder tapping them and then connecting them with somebody from our um, our team specifically. And so one of the programs that we launched this year, relaunched that I should say, Pastor Phil can go in a little bit more about that would be Leader Track. And that’s something that is a great pipeline onboarding ramp for ah, high capacity volunteers within the church context as far as that that perspective is concerned. And that is a little bit less skin in the game as far as fulfilling an academic requirements through our partnership with SEU, so.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah, yeah, Phil, do you want to tell us about Leader Track, kind of unpack that? What does that look like? How do we talk to that ah, you know what’s covered there? How how does that fit? How’s that work?

Phil Caporale — Yeah, yeah, it had its Genesis in about 2015, so we’re going back a few years. Actually George and about 13 others were the pilot of that and we just put together what was then Leader Step, Rich, was really out of our assimilation and what is our Growth Track process. People were going through that, they were doing everything we were asking of them to move in their journey in their faith, and you know, being involved in the life of the church, being connected in a small group—we call life groups—being being on a ministry team. But then we had a handful of people come up to us, and George was one of them then, that said. Hey I’m I’m in but I feel like God has something else for me to develop. I feel like I can lead others. I feel like I want to learn more; I want to lead better. And so after several of those conversations, it was enough at the time our lead team for us to realize, Hey we should probably lean into this a little bit more and and do something a little bit more deliberate in training um, high-capacity volunteers that can really step into some ministry roles, but really fulfill um, what they’re sensing in their hearts and and let’s let’s do that. You know, let’s go back to Ephesians 4.

Phil Caporale — So we started doing that. We did it for several years and took about 70-ish people through that. And we were watching just the fruit of that, which was spectacular because people were owning their part of ministry. They were owning their they were owning that idea of growing their influence in their homes, in their families, on their jobs. I mean some of the stories that were outside the walls of the church were incredible of how God was working in people’s lives. And then um, from that we we launched a year-long program that was very intense that we just called Protégé, like some others have named it and that discipleship program. And then out of that was birth the the leadership school, Kingsway Leadership School.

Phil Caporale — But even even though we’re in our I think 6 year now of of the school, we realized that hey they’re gonna be people that are aren’t going to be preparing for full time ministry, or don’t need a degree, or aren’t interested in that level of commitment. So we’ve got to bring this Leader Step back that was on hiatus for a little while, and we just thought, hey it really is a track for leadership development and potentially not just leading as a volunteer. But if people are wrestling with a full time call to vocational ministry, um, Leader Track can help begin to allow them to explore that. So we just relaunched it this past fall. We named it instead of Leader Step, Leader Track this time. And it’s a ten week commitment. In fact to pilot it, or re-pilot it, we took our our Kingsway Leadership School to students through it in their fall semester, asked them for feedback, asked them to speak to it. What do you love? What do you not like? What do you need more of? What what could we take away?

Phil Caporale — And then we um, we made an invite of um, we’re hoping to take 40 people through it this year, and we just finished a ten week cohort of 22 of them um, that are already leading in many areas of of our church. Some of our pastors and ministry directors have already made specific asks of them in in you know, worship and student ministry, children’s ministry, whatever else. And now the responsibility is on our our staff to meet back up with those people that have gone through it and continue to make an ongoing investment into them.

Phil Caporale — And so some of the early fruit we’re seeing is relationships that are being forged, Rich, in some incredible ways as well. But people really leaning into it. We’re getting reports similar to what it was in the past of people applying the principles at work. I mean some of these people are lead in high-level roles in their jobs, entrepreneurs in business, whatever it is, education, and they’re taking some of the principles from the word of God on character development, and personal mission statement, and leading healthy teams, and implementing that. And they’re coming back and saying things like this, Hey this works! And we’re like yes, of course it does!

Rich Birch — Love it.

Phil Caporale — You know, that’s incredible.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Phil Caporale — So it’s it’s been fun to really watch that. And it just it just continues to ignite that fire in us to go man, this is what we as ministry leaders, as pastors, are called to do. And we shouldn’t be surprised of the fruit that Paul promised in the word.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. You know, one of the interesting things is I saw a stat recently I think it was three quarters I think it was like 76% of this is marketplace leaders who are already managers, so they’re already leading people, say they have never received any training to be a manager…

Phil Caporale — Wow.

Rich Birch — …which is fascinating. And so you can see why as a church if we step in and provide some leadership, it doesn’t surprise me at all, you step in and provide some leadership training, man, it makes a huge difference in in people’s lives. Sticking with you, Phil, how do you balance out the um like the in class, something like Leader Track, with the practicality of leading in context, you know the being with people, the two by two, how do those two balance out together? I sometimes feel like we’re tempted by classes like this; we’re tempted by like say all we need is another curriculum. When clearly obviously you know it’s more than that. h, balance that out. How does that work out for you guys at at Kingsway?

Phil Caporale — Yeah, well and George kind of alluded to it a few moments ago. One of the things that we do is we we want it to be by invitation. So until a couple of months ago during a vision so a recent vision series, we hadn’t really talked about Leader Track. Our so our church knows about Kingsway Leadership School, of course…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Caporale — …but Leader Track has always been this shoulder tap, this personal invite from a ministry leader because we wanted to make sure that these people were already they already have a lot of skin in the game. They’re already leading, many of them are leading really well and we’ve identified, our teams identified in them the potential to to take on more, and to and to grow their influence by leading people. Ah, one of the gaps that we noticed, Rich, in our church was between staff and ministry leaders, and others that have led others is this this group of leaders of leaders. How could we get somebody to coach others. Ah, we don’t use this term but it would be like a team captain really where where they’re investing themselves into others, from a volunteer standpoint, which could potentially be a base for us to hire potential staff someday. That’s always a thing that we’re keeping in mind, but it’s not the desired or ah intended end result.

Phil Caporale — So watching people already serve. They’re already in involved, embedded into the life of the church. This is stuff that we’re seeing on display in who they are, and how how consistent they’re involved in the life of the church, and then coming alongside of them and going hey… The content that we provided, a lot of we make it very interactive. We don’t want to just get up and lecture. They can get the information anywhere. We’ve just tried to do our best to contextualize it. And then create even within that large group of the 22 we took through it, um, we put them around small tables. And half of the evening, half of the 3 hours we were together was then building community. And we didn’t ask any of them to do this but one of the neat things that happened out of that, Rich, was very early on they started exchanging numbers together. They were in text threads. They were…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great.

Phil Caporale — …I heard from some that I’m close to, Hey we’re we’re exchanging a prayer requests and so-and-so showed up in my house to encourage me. And nothing we ever said, we just instead of teaching in in rows, like a classroom setting, we said let’s do it around tables so we can naturally facilitate community. And that kind of caught on like wildfire and and expedited a process of us going, Hey here’s some content and curriculum we want to help you with, and if you’ll learn to lead yourself well, you’re going to be able to lead others just as well.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. Yeah and I do think this whole leader of leaders issue, man, there’s so many of our churches we we struggle with this. We we’re looking for people to just do stuff for us, if I can be too if I can be a little too pointed. We’re looking for people who just if you could just stand here and hand out these programs, or you could just you know helping kids ministry. As opposed to, man, I want you to lead a group of leaders to make a difference. Um George, let’s talk about the Kingsway Leadership School. Let’s talk through this. Ah give us this so give us a sense of, you know, kind of what is offered through that. How does it work? How is it partnership kind of give us an overview and then let’s dig into it. So give us an overview there, George.

George Probasco — Yeah, so we’re going into our seventh year come…

Rich Birch — Amazing.

George Probasco — …comes fall. So we’ve learned a ton over the years, Rich. I mean a ton. We had to add and bring in some values for our students because we just our culture was just all over the place, and that’s one of the things that I would just say strongly is that we have to, when you’re developing a leadership culture in your church, you need to have strong values, whether it be church values or if you have like a program that you’re taking your your students through, you have to have values. So that’s one of the things that we instituted.

George Probasco — But an overview, we offer 15 degrees…

Rich Birch — Wow!

George Probasco — …in partnership with Southeastern University. Ah, five of those are which are masters degrees. And so students are able to come for our leadership development within the church, so we don’t teach any SU academic accredited courses here in the church – that is all online only. What we do is we come alongside of Southeastern University and we’re ah, developing the student’s heart and hands.

George Probasco — And so we like to break it down into three categories heart, head, and hand. So the head component would be SEU’s partnership with us. The heart component is leadership development, character development. That’s actually what our pastoral staff and and leaders are actually doing and in our students and developing in our students. And then we love to develop our students’ hands, and that’s through ministry practicum.

George Probasco — So the cool thing about Southeastern’s partnership, if you’re an extension site, is every college student gets college credits through something called practicum. That is an actual college level course through Southeastern University. And if you’re a bachelor uh, degree student or looking to acquire your bachelor degree, that’s twenty four college credits that a student can earn through ministry practicum. So what that means is if they’re serving in their local church, working with under a ministry leader, shadowing them, um, really learning from them, they are logging what they are doing in the ministry and they’re getting college credits for that. So that’s a big deal. So long, the days are over I would say with students going away to college, especially ministry students, not being developed, rather they’re just getting all head knowledge and then no practical ministry experience. So we’re looking to really, again, meet that need where we can provide an academic degree for our students, but also train them up and and give them practical ministry experience. So.

Rich Birch — Now so talk to me through ah, you know, so SEU is a fantastic school, very innovative. This is not a, they’re great school. I love those guys. They’re good people so there’s no negative in all of this. But why the partnership with them? What what about them specifically you would say, hey ah, you know they’re good people to work with? Phil why don’t you take this what what was you know, kind of what drew you to a partnership with them? Why is that been a great connection? How does that how has that been for you guys?

Phil Caporale — Yeah, we um we we early on as we were long um, going through what I mentioned earlier, Protégé, Rich, which was developed out of what Leader Track was the first time our first iteration of it. We had come into contact with a couple people, 3 or 4 actually, that said, hey you should look into SEU. They’re making college education really affordable. And I was um I was really excited about that because I’ve I’ve always I’ve always felt like there’s been these two sides of it, and neither one really fully met the um, the requirements of what it would look like for people that, especially wanted to pursue full-time vocational ministry.

Phil Caporale — And what I mean by that is we had people that would have a lot of experience in in church culture, but were missing that educational, the theology, the doctrine understanding of the scriptures, and the the formal education there. And then there were other people, to George’s point of moment they ago, Rich, that were coming out of bible colleges with almost you know, zero zero ministry practical ministry experience. So when we heard of the partnership with SEU, we did some exploration, we connected with them on some calls, and had them come up and visit us. And and the fact that they could package that and a student would never have to leave Jersey, and stay involved in their local church, do it very affordable for less than a third of the cost. There were a lot of um, very obvious pros to that. And we said, all right, well let’s let’s dig into that a little bit more. And as we did we realized that we can bring really the the crux of the discipleship, and and they can they can get an idea of what it means to here’s what a follower of Christ looks like as they’re growing, as they’re learning the lead, as they’re pursuing potentially vocational ministry. Um, and it it very quickly became appealing.

Phil Caporale — It’s funny, Rich, about half of our student body through the last six plus years has not even been within our own church. It was other churches that kids were coming out of youth ministry…

Rich Birch — Oh really? Interesting.

Phil Caporale — …other adults that were serving.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Phil Caporale — Because it allowed… pastors were interested because they’re like wait a second guys. You mean my this person from my church doesn’t need to go down to Florida for 4 years? Like no, no, they can stay involved in your church. We’ll do the discipleship part, you offer the practicum and SEU… So then it was like this three-headed partnership.

Rich Birch — Oh, that’s really cool.

Phil Caporale — Um, and that’s appealed to a lot of people, you know. And and and I think the fact, especially in this day and age, where where you don’t have to go away, and it’s going to cut the cost down, again, until less than a third, that there’s ah, there’s obviously an appealing nature to that. Um, but the fact that they cannot just get practical ministry experience, but stay in that church which they’re part of, perhaps even grown up in, um, really continues to benefit, and feed that, and strengthen the local church.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s that’s fantastic. Love it. So so good. George, give me a sense of the kind of week-in week-out for a student, you know, that’s engaging. What does that look like? How do they, you know, how do they connect with with with you guys? What’s that all again, kind of give us it from from their perspective. What does that look like when so, you know, when they’re in class or what I don’t even share the language you use.

George Probasco — Sure.

Rich Birch — When they’re you know when they’re engaged, what’s that look like?

George Probasco — Yeah, sure. So students gather on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9. We’ll feed our students. A lot of them have jobs, full time jobs, so they’re doing other things. Um, and that’s another thing about ah Southeastern is that it is affordable and students are able to work a part-time job, or work full-time and almost nearly knock out their their student debt right away. So um…

Rich Birch — Oh, that’s great.

George Probasco — …but so a lot of them are coming in from 6 to 9, and then what we’ll do is we’ll we’ll do some leadership development, we’ll have chapel, and then we’ll do some character development as well with them. And then Sundays is ah all hands on deck ministry day. So we are exposing them to to ministry. And we take our year one students through ah kind of a general practicum is what we call it. And we rotate them through all the various ministries here at ah at the local church. And we’re teaching them and giving them a a well-rounded exposure to Kingsway Church Min. So it’s not the end all be all, but it’s just the way how we do it in our context.

George Probasco — And so they’re working with different ministry leaders, and they’re being exposed to those ministries. And and a lot of this is and I say and I highly recommend that because what it does is it’s going to build some character. For students that just want to get up on a platform and and start speaking, well we know that that’s not realistic. And so we’re going to throw them in the kids’ ministry. We’re going to throw them in ah, you know, around teenagers or you know we’re going to really help build that character within them because that’s just what we do. And then for year two, three and four what we do is um, we take our students and we allow them to choose their ministry focus. And so…

Rich Birch — Okay.

George Probasco — …we’ll we’ll get around our our practicum leaders. So one of them being our our youth pastor, and if if a student’s interested in that that our youth pastor becomes responsible for that student. And so literally they have their own curriculum that they have built to develop help develop our students ah, to train them up to be a youth pastor or whatever the gap is.

Rich Birch — Love that. So good. Phil, a part of what you’ve talked about is this whole vocational ministry push, that a part of what… and we all know this, right? Like anybody that’s that isn’t just heads down in their local, you know, they realize, gosh, there’s a giant leadership crisis in every church. I was literally just this week talking to some leaders in a particular movement, they were saying hey we’re going to 1500 pastors retiring—and then we all know these statistics—1500 pastors retiring in the next ten years, and they’re graduating, I think it was 8 per year out of their ministry school.

Phil Caporale — Wow.

Rich Birch — So it’s like, Hey this is going to be a problem. We’re trying to, you know, so what has that what’s kind of been the output on that side? I know not all of these people are going to end up in vocational ministry, but what has that looked like, you know, give us some context on what that looks like, Phil?

Phil Caporale — Yeah, um, some of them um, it really gets it gets interesting, Rich, in the sense of placement. One of the things we are very upfront with about students that are interested in the school, in Kingsway Leadership School, is to tell them, Hey there’s no guarantee of placement upon graduation, whether it’s two years, four years, or six years that you’re with us, but we’re going to continue to walk alongside of you. And because of, you know, our network of churches and the connections that we have to a bunch of them um, we’ve been able to and minimally hook up um a student that’s finishing graduating the program, graduating the school with a degree and whatnot with other local churches and their pastors to at least entertain a conversation that sometimes has…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Caporale — …even um, you know turned into an interview, or them pursuing you know ministry credentials, or going down another path ah similar route to be involved in in their local church, or or Kingsway, whatever whatever the case might be. So I think one of the things is always having keeping that out in front of them, especially for those, Rich, that feel or sensing and working through a call to vocational missionary, not just pastoring but even missionary. We have a girl coming through our school right now that where she just finished up her her grad degree, is our first grad student. So she’s got this master she’s got this this Masters of Divinity and she’s preparing to go to India on a two-year term…

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Phil Caporale — …as a missionary associate. and so that’s been a big deal. She got to go on that as a scholarship for being part of the school this past this past fall, and just felt a real tug and pull in her heart from the Lord to be there. So she’s pursuing that now and I could certainly see her um, becoming a career missionary. Um, there’s a strong call in her life for that, but she’s really leaned into it. And she’s gotten that practicum experience…

Rich Birch — Right.

Phil Caporale — …that George just detailed a moment ago with um, one of our pastors who’s over missions, and has been able to really lean into that, been able to really draw from that. And not just from our pastor that’s leading her in that, but the connections that that Pastor has as well to some other pastors, to some other missionaries that has opened this girl’s scope of potential resource and influence up so she can explore this call.

Rich Birch — Yeah, this is fantastic. I love this. I love what you guys are doing here. I think there’s so much for us to learn from and continue to lean in on. George, when you think about um you know individual students, is there like similar to the student we just heard about, are there any other stories or kind of insights of like, here’s kind of how this is working out practically in in someone’s life?

George Probasco — Yeah I have a student actually, when I transitioned in into the campus pastor role in October of ’22, we had a ah vacant area also I’ve I’ve identified in at the campus.

Rich Birch — Okay, yeah.

George Probasco — And so one of our students one of our students is so high capacity. He actually um, came from another church where he was briefly youth pastoring, but he’s now with Kingsway and in in our program. And part of his practicum it just so happened to work out where he was going to be coming down to the campus with me this year. And so now I have him overseeing um, our guest experience teams at our campus. And um so he’s responsible for for five teams in particular, and caring and pastoring for them. And so that’s just providing alongside of his academics very real ah, very real experience. And and the reason why I say that is because these are just some things that textbooks don’t train you up on.

Rich Birch — Right.

George Probasco — These are things that ah they don’t they don’t tell you how to have a hard conversations, difficult conversations. You just kind of have to be thrown into that. And there’s a lot of coaching with me me and him you know, again, it’s a lot of one on one, so anything that he’s doing, we’re we’re talking about it afterwards. So that’s where the discipleship comes in.

Rich Birch — Love that. Yeah I love that and that that’s been my like very similar experience particularly as people have transitioned into our churches from um, you know the marketplace, is that there is like there’s the academic side that we can deal with it’s like okay you know you can you can learn. There’s a certain amount of theological stuff you can learn. You can take courses, but there is some. There’s real issues around how do we help people get the practical insights around, you know, when you’re sitting across the table for the first time and someone talks about that they want to leave their spouse. You know you know, that the first minute of your response there is really important. And you know you don’t want people being like, I don’t know I’ve never really thought about that before. And so what you guys are doing is, you know, in such a supportive environment is is enabling that kind of thing I think that’s fantastic.

Rich Birch — Well, Phil, why don’t we give you the last word. If I was a ah church leader that was listening in today that was saying, man, I think we need to really step up our game on this front. We need to we need to look to grow. What would be some of those first steps that we should take, whether it’s leader track or maybe even pursuing something more robust like, you know, Kingsway Leadership School. What would be some of those first steps that you would encourage leaders to be thinking about today?

Phil Caporale — Yeah I think I think part of the the first thing ah a leader needs to do is is really look at—this is very practical—look at their calendar and of their week, let’s just call it a 40 hour work week as a pastor or ministry director on staff at a church, and and ask ourselves right now, How many hours a week am I giving to intentional and deliberate leadership development? Um, ah one of the things that we put in front of our staff, it hasn’t been a hard and fast rule, but, you know, could you take up to a day a week, six to 8 hours a week, where you’re developing others. In other words, our theme this year for our our team, Rich, is um, our staff is to I just call it LTO – you’re going to lead through others. We have to lead through others. We can’t just think, hey that’s a good idea, or someday I hope to get to it. No, it’s like we have to, right? Some of us are going to be natural just doers all the time, others of us do have a proficiency to develop others, but we’re really trying to move our whole staff to think, you know, I’m here to develop others; I have to lead other people through those that are right in front of me.

Phil Caporale — And so the practical, my the first thought again practical is just looking at the calendar and it’s not necessarily a full day, like I’m just going to pick oh Thursday’s the leadership development day. It may be a two hour pocket here, and a three hour window there. But what does that look like and how do I continue to do that to make an intentional investment in other people? Because look we all know that battle right of of urgent versus important. But one of the things I’ve learned through ministry and in my experience, and probably took me a little longer to learn than I care to admit is that, yeah, you’re always going to have the urgent, but if you’ll if you’ll focus on what’s important, right? In this conversation we’re talking about developing leaders of leaders. If you’ll give more time to focus on what’s important, it will keep some of the urgent at bay. Not all of it. There’s always going to be the emergency situations, of course, but part of the urgency that creeps up at times is our lack of being purposeful and intentional in building leaders.

Phil Caporale — I think back to Exodus 18, right? This the first this is like this is like the um Old Testament version of Ephesians 4 when when Moses is kind of burned out. He’s judging all the cases and his father-in-law Jethro goes, You can’t do this, right? You got to find some leaders that can lead tens and fifties and hundreds and a thousand. And and he said at the end of that, and we often overlook this part, he said if you’ll do this, then you’ll be able to endure and the people will go home in peace. And I just thought about that like longevity and ministry. If if God’s call in our life is not just for a season but it’s for all our lives, and for those of us that are called to pastoral ministry, um, that man, let’s do this well. Let’s look to make sure that we endure and we pace well through this. And others are going to go home in peace. But there’s also tied to that word a sense of fulfillment in their own lives, you know?

Phil Caporale — And again kind of back to earlier in the conversation when you see that life-giving joy come out of others, it adds to your your sense of of purpose being fulfilled as well. So I think it’s it’s as as as simple even as going, hey look at my calendar how many how many meetings have I had with other people this week?

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good.

Phil Caporale — Am I grabbing lunch or coffee with anybody and making an intentional investment into that time? And then as ministry leaders right on staff I would think um, if I’m in the executive pastor role or lead paster role or on the lead team, what are we doing to train our staff? I realized that a large portion of my job I would I would I would contend that about 25% of what I do is thinking about how I’m training the staff to lead through others. Because if I don’t train them, if I don’t model it to them, I’m I’m going to get the same thing from them, right? So it’s got to be something that’s real. So where we can invite people like Paul said, hey you follow my example as I follow the example of Christ. And and as we do that, it it catches on. And it takes a little bit of time and you’re always going to have those on the team or on the staff potentially that are a little intimidated by it. I don’t want other people to pick up my bad habits, or I’m not quite sure to do this. So we just leverage our chapel every week. We have a two hour chapel where we’ll worship and pray together. And then the second hour of most of that is training. It’s it’s it’s hey let’s get into the nuts and bolts. This was what it looks like, not just philosophically or theoretically to train leaders. But this is how we’re gonna do it.

Phil Caporale — And then keeping yourself available. I think as as the point person or if you’re leading a ministry um to just say to the rest of your staff or your team or those that report to you, hey I’m available and I’ll continue to help develop you as you develop others.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. I really appreciate this conversation today, guys. This has been super helpful and inspiring. Really, really good. George, um, if people want to connect with you, with the church with you know to kind of follow along, where do we want to send them online, just as we wrap up today’s conversation?

George Probasco — Yeah, they can ah email me personally [email protected]

Rich Birch — Oh great, good stuff. And then for everything else if they want to track along. Well, appreciate you guys being here today. Thanks so much, and always good to talk to leaders from Jersey. So thanks for being here today.

Phil Caporale — Yeah, it was a blast, Rich, thanks for having us.

Rich Birch — Thank you.

George Probasco — Thanks for having us, Rich.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.