Rick Warren Partners With Vanguard University to Equip Church Leaders

Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church has announced partnership with California’s Vanguard University to help prepare next generation church leaders to start culturally relevant churches in strategic cities around the world.

The new venture will offer a Master of Theological Studies (MTS) through the Saddleback Leadership Academy, says a statement by the school in Costa Mesa, Calif., on its website. The university, founded in 1920, is owned by Southern California District of the Assemblies of God.

“If you’re considering a Christian school and you really want to be a world changer, this is where you need to be,” Daily Pilot quoted Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., as saying. “We have partnered Saddleback Church and Vanguard for a leadership training program unlike any others, particularly in the area of church planting.”

Pastor Warren, a bestselling Christian author, wants to start churches that are sensitive to local cultures, and his church’s Leadership Academy has a key role to play in that vision. The academy seeks to equip, empower, and encourage individuals to pursue their calling to church planting or ministry leadership.

Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Church, a guide to church ministry and evangelism, has spawned several conferences on Christian ministry and evangelism around the world.

At Vanguard, those interested in the fulfillment of the Great Commission can get a “solid Christian education” as well as a “practical training and internship program at Saddleback Church nearby where we’re training worship leaders, church planters, staff members and missionaries,” Warren added.

“The partnership with Vanguard will allow us to offer future church ministry leaders thorough, practical training in an accelerated format,” said Dave Alford, director of the Leadership Academy. “We’ll be able to get qualified leaders into ministry faster.”

Students at the Leadership Academy for a one-year internship will now be able to enroll in Vanguard University’s Graduate Religion Program and earn 18 of 48 units toward the MTS degree on site at Saddleback. Thereafter, they can complete 30 units of theology on campus at Vanguard.

“Vanguard shares Saddleback’s Christ-centered vision,” said Vanguard Provost Jeff Hittenberger. The school describes itself as “a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.”

The Vanguard’s MTS/Church Planting program offers students who have already earned their undergraduate degree a chance to prepare for ministry and earn their Master’s degree in just four semesters compressed into 15 months, according to Hittenberger. “A student starting the program in May 2012 can be finished by August 2013.”

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