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3+1 Ministry Programs

Inventive Training  •  Real-Life Contexts  •  Practical Ministry Experiences  •  All before Graduation

About the 3+1 Religion Track

This religion program option prepares students for practical ministry in a variety of areas, with 3+1 concentrations in Christian Ministry or Youth Ministry. Religion majors learn to apply scriptural principles to contemporary life by taking what they learn in the classroom for three years and diving into a ministry residency during their fourth year.

As a 3+1 religion major, you will begin cultivating a pattern of spiritual accountability and participate in ministry before you graduate. Additionally, you will learn to effectively and persuasively preach and teach, to plan and conduct worship services, to give pastoral care, and to understand basic counseling. As you gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of life issues, you'll also experience what it means to share the plan of salvation with a seeker, provide administrative leadership for ministry, and continue your personal spiritual development.

SWU's 3+1 curriculum option provides ministry preparation that is "both/and":

  • Traditional / Contemporary approaches
  • Large church / Mid-small church experiences
  • Historical appreciation / Missional relevancy
  • Classroom instruction / Residency mentoring
  • Campus experience / Real-life ministry

You might consider a 3+1 religion track if you sense God’s calling on your life into vocational ministry or a Christ-centered organization, are an individual who shows Christ-like compassion to others, and are seeking a hands-on educational experience.

LEt's Connect! Which of the following best describes you?

Future Student

Current Student

Partner Church


Christian Ministry Track
Youth and Children's Ministry Track

Hear from Dr. Mike Tapper about this new program.


Becoming a 3+1 Ministry Residency Partnership Church

After reviewing and agreeing to the expectations listed here, a church representative may fill out the 3+1 Ministry Residency Partnership Church Application for possible consideration. The church must show evidence of vitality, with a healthy and vibrant leadership culture. A residency program must be established at the church before residents are assigned. Qualified pastoral staff with the willingness and time to invest in intensive ministry coaching is required.

What Is Expected of SWU 3+1 Residency Ministry Partners?

1. An Investment Mentality

Only churches wanting more for 3+1 residents than from them will be considered for a 3+1 ministry residency partnership. This experience is designed to effectively equip students for ministerial service through guided, experiential learning. It requires commitment, intentionality, and sacrificial effort on the part of those involved in this mentoring process. Your ministry should be enhanced by 3+1 residents, but not dependent on them.

2. A Healthy Ministry Environment

A healthy and vibrant ministry environment is essential. Clear signs of congregational vitality, spiritual fervor, effective outreach/discipleship and relational health must be evident.

3. Leadership Stability and Support

This program requires the enthusiastic support of the lead pastor, who must have a proven track record of effective ministerial service. This endeavor must also have the blessing of the church board (or primary governing body). If the senior leadership of the church does not support this, you should not apply to be a 3+1 residency church.

4. Qualified Ministry Coach

A Ministry Coach with the capacity to develop and manage the growth of a resident must be available and willing to serve. The development of residents requires close guidance, observation, and feedback as the student plans, practices and performs various ministry assignments. The Ministry Coach will provide a high level of belief (“you can do it”), challenge (“stretch to do it”), and feedback (“how you can do it better next time”).

Can the Ministry Coach give a growing load of ministry responsibility based on proven performance of the student?

The Ministry Coach must serve full time in the specific ministry area of the residency (e.g. youth ministry, children’s ministry, worship ministry or pastoral ministry). A minimum of five years of experience in the specific ministry area of the residency is expected.

5. Spiritual Formation Mentor

Not only will there be a Ministry Coach for developing leadership and ministry skills, but a Spiritual Formation Mentor will also be provided for the purpose of the resident’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing. While the Ministry Coach may fulfill this responsibility, it is advisable to bring in another (non-supervisory) person for this mentorship, broadening the circle of influence and care. The mentor may be another pastor, a highly respected elder of the congregation, a counselor, a retired minister, or a ministry leader in the denomination or community.

6. Meetings

The Ministry Coach must be willing and able to have a weekly face-to-face meeting with the resident. This weekly connection will provide regular feedback, as the coach and student make plans and honestly assess performance.

The Mentor must be willing and able to meet with the resident on at least a monthly basis. The purpose of this meeting is to provide encouragement and accountability for spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational, and emotional health/wellbeing.

A specific, regularly scheduled time devoted to leadership development is an essential component of the residency program. The host church will assume responsibility for this for this. The Southern Wesleyan 3+1 Residency Director will provide guidance in curriculum selection as needed.

At least once during the two-semester residency, an opportunity should be given to the resident to attend a ministry training event. The selection is up to the leaders of the Residency Partner Church, and this requirement may be completed by participation in a conference, seminar, webinar, retreat or other format.

7. Compensation

3+1 Residency Partnership Churches are expected to provide housing and meals for residents assigned to them, as well as a stipend of $500 per month (minimum).

8. Expectations of Residents

Residents will work in tandem with Southern Wesleyan University’s 3+1 Residency Director and the 3+1 Residency Partner Church to create a Learning Covenant outlining objectives and expectations for developing their gifts and graces of ministry in this specific context. Residents will be expected to work 25 hours (and not exceed 29 hours) per week at the church, with the understanding that time is needed to complete online coursework and residency reports.

Residents will be given exposure to ministry, then experience, with increasing responsibility. By the end of the residency, the student will be entrusted to lead a ministry or program of significant responsibility (something that would normally be led by vocational ministry staff).

Schedule space shall be granted to the residents for regular (bi-weekly) Zoom conversation with Southern Wesleyan University’s 3+1 Residency Director (or a professor assigned to this responsibility) and the other students in their residency cohort. Specific time for these conversations will be established as the residency commences.

9. Approval

Partner churches in the SWU 3+1 Ministry Residency program are expected to already have an established residency program in place and show evidence of this for approval. A recommendation from denominational/ supervisory leadership (according to the congregation’s system of accountability) leadership will be required. In non-denominational contexts, another source of recommendation may be given with the approval of Southern Wesleyan’s 3+1 Residency Director.

10. Grading

The resident will submit weekly assignments and reports to the professor of record at Southern Wesleyan University. Monthly reports and evaluations will also be submitted by the student’s supervisors. Grades will be given by the university based on these assignments, reports and evaluations.

11. Termination and Disciplinary Action

3+1 Ministry Residents are expected to exemplify Christian behavior and abide by the standards of conduct outlined in the university’s policy manual and the Discipline of the Wesleyan Church. On rare and unfortunate occasions, the resident may be immediately terminated on the basis of inappropriate conduct (an offense that would cause the dismissal of a pastor).

If a termination situation arises due to personality conflicts, etc., a graceful departure may be arranged during natural semester breaks.

Some behavioral or attitudinal issues do not warrant dismissal, but need to be addressed and corrected. The Ministry Coach is expected to deal directly with these situations as they arise. All issues requiring disciplinary action should be reported immediately to the 3+1 Residency Director.

12. Application

Churches entering into a 3+1 Residency Partnership with SWU should fill out the application for possible consideration. Please remember, since many churches are hoping to secure our 3+1 residents, the process will be highly selective and competitive. Application to this program and acceptance as a potential 3+1 Residency Partner Church does not automatically mean a local church will receive a resident.

It is also important to remember this is not an avenue to find cheap labor or staff support. Instead, it is about making sacrificial investments to develop and deploy quality ministry leaders to impact the rising generation.

13. Schedule

While recognizing that flexibility is required in ministry (no two weeks are the same), the following are expected to be included in the 3+1 Ministry Resident’s schedule:

  • Meet weekly with Ministry Coach.
  • Attend ministry staff meetings.
  • Participate in a program of weekly leadership development.
  • Attend all worship services and ministry functions required of the pastoral staff.
  • Participate as a contributing member of the pastoral staff team. Fulfill ministry duties (as assigned by Ministry Coach).
  • Meet at least monthly with Spiritual Formation Mentor.
  • Submit weekly theological reflections on ministry experiences and assigned reading.
  • Gain ministry competencies through exposure and experience, tracking those that are assessed at the local church. While this list is specifically designed for Wesleyan ordination, it is appropriate for ministry in other denominations.


Current SWU Students

Ready to apply for your church residency? Click one of the links below to get started!

Apply for Residency

Background Check Form

Development Plan

Future SWU Students

Your first step in the residency program is to apply and be accepted to SWU! We'd also love to host you on campus for a visit and a tour. If you're not ready to apply, feel free to request more information, or contact Rev. Mark O. Wilson at