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Home  >  Articles  >  Menikoff, Aaron




Churches Raising Up Pastors - SG Pastors College


9Marks wants to see more churches and pastors taking responsibility for raising up the next generation of pastors. To help our readers catch a vision for what that might look like, we asked several organizations closely tied to one or several local churches how they fulfill this mission. With one exception, each of the following organization answers the same 18 questions.

Here are the answers provided by the Sovereign Grace Pastors College (submitted by Jeff Purswell). The Sovereign Grace Pastors College is located in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

  1. Organization name
    Sovereign Grace Ministries’ Pastors College

  2. Year began
    1997

  3. What’s the relationship between the organization and a local church?
    The college exists to train men for pastoral ministry within the churches of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Therefore, there is an intentional connection that exists generally between the college and our churches—a connection that spans the entire training process, from a student’s application to the school to his deployment in a specific local church. The average student comes from a church with specific doctrinal commitments and certain essential values, and the college builds upon that foundation with an academic and practical curriculum that deepens and reinforces those commitments and values.

    More specifically, the college is housed on the premises of Covenant Life Church, and its leadership, as well as a number of its instructors, serve as pastors at Covenant Life. This ensures that the relationship with the local church is not simply one of location, but rather one in which the theology, general methodology, and experience of the church’s pastoral team is transferred to the students. Simply put, Covenant Life functions as a working model for the kind of pastoral ministry for which the students are being trained.

  4. How many students per semester or year?
    20 to 25.

  5. What’s the length of the program?
    10 months.

  6. Does the program cost?
    Tuition for the 2008-09 academic year was $8500 plus books and an activity fee.
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  7. Is it full time? Are students allowed/required to be doing something else (work/study) at the same time?
    Yes, the program is full-time, and due to the significant course load, students devote all of their energies to this concentrated 10-month program.

  8. Is housing made available for students? Cost?
    We have a dedicated administrative staff who will assist all students in locating area housing. The college owns five townhomes used for student housing, while other students live either with families from the church or in other rental arrangements. Costs vary due to specific needs.

  9. What are the programs goals?
    As noted above, the program is designed to equip students for pastoral ministry within Sovereign Grace churches. This training encompasses three primary areas: academic/theological training, personal character development, and practical training for ministry.

  10. What’s involved in the application process?
    The application process is really part of a larger process in which a man explores his sense of calling to pastoral ministry with his pastor(s) within the context of a local church. When the potential student and his pastors reach a point of faith regarding his calling and the timing of his training, he will apply to the college, and his pastor will complete an extensive pastoral recommendation form. The college reviews the applications, often following up with the pastor with questions and/or concerns related to the student’s gifting, character, or even the timing of his training. This process serves both the student and his church, as well as the college, in helping to ensure as much as possible that a student does indeed have the gifting and character necessary for pastoral ministry. Because of this process, most applications to the college are ultimately accepted.

  11. Can you give a brief overview of how the program works from the student’s standpoint?
    Students are immersed in a rigorous academic schedule, with classes running weekly from Tuesday-Friday, 9:00 to 4:00. Each student is also part of a fellowship group consisting of four students, which meets weekly (1.5 hours) for encouragement and accountability. In addition, students and their wives are part of larger “care groups” (6 to 8 couples) which meet monthly with our director of Student Care and his wife to receive care in the areas of marriage, parenting, etc. Once each month, the students and their wives meet with C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney (sometimes as couples, sometimes separately as men and women) to benefit from their wisdom and experience. Practical skills are sharpened through a weekly preaching lab in which a student preaches and receives constructive feedback and through structured observation of various ministries of Covenant Life Church.

    In addition to the aforementioned care groups and times with the Mahaneys, there are other contexts in which the students’ wives receive care and training, including their own fellowship groups and monthly meetings where they receive specific instruction to equip them to serve alongside their husbands.

  12. What responsibilities does the student have in a typical week?
    A normal week consists of about 24 hours of classroom instruction, 27 to 30 hours of outside reading and assignments, one fellowship group meeting (Wednesday lunch), and occasional evening meetings (two per month).

  13. Any further responsibilities or opportunities for the student?
    In addition to the assignments for the weekly courses, the students also write 5 to 7 research papers throughout the year, take a full year of seminary-level Greek, preach once in class and at least once (often twice) in a Sovereign Grace church, attend 7 different ministries of Covenant Life Church, and write brief interaction papers evaluating those visits. There are also a number of social activities and events (e.g., fall picnic, sweetheart party, guided tour of D.C., etc.) designed for the students by a team of volunteers from Covenant Life dedicated to serving the students

  14. How many pastors are involved? How are they involved and what’s the cost on their time?
    The college has two full time staff members who are pastors. The dean of the college has overall responsibility for the college, with particular focus on the academic program. He also teaches 8 to 10 courses during the year. The director of student care is responsible for the care of the students and their families, and focuses in particular on the character development of the students.

  15. How many non-pastoral staff are involved and what do they do?
    We have one full time administrative assistant, and one academic intern who assists the dean in a variety of functions.

  16. What is this program good for accomplishing?
    Perhaps the greatest benefit of the program comes through the cumulative effect gained by the combination of academic training, character development, and practical training, all done in the context of a working model of a local church. This helps ensure that the classroom training doesn’t merely deliver information, but rather trains men through the lens of pastoral ministry. We are quite self-conscious in our focus on “theological ministry”—i.e., seeking to ground all pastoral methodology upon biblical and theological convictions.

  17. What is it not good for accomplishing?
    Ours is specifically pastoral training, so we are not structured to train scholars. We also recognize the limitations of a one-year program, so we emphasize to our students the necessity of life-long learning, as well as providing on-going training opportunities to Sovereign Grace pastors after graduation.

  18. Where are your graduated students now and what are they doing?
    Since 1997, we have graduated 185 students. Of these, 152 (82%) are currently in vocational ministry in 63 churches throughout the U.S. and in 8 other nations. Out of these graduates, 20 students have planted churches, and 39 are serving as senior pastors.