Monmouth County, NJ

Award winning blogger, pastor, and VP of a small engineering firm. Darren and his wife Kristin spend their free time raising 3 girls and helping fuel a movement of #KingdomCollaboration.

Church Leadership

Introducing the Commissional Institute: a new school for local church leaders in NJ!

By on November 28, 2017

When I was in Seminary, I learned a ton. It was a great season for me. Technically, I’m still there…I just put my classes on hold because I knew the time was right to start implementing things and planting a new church. One of the difficulties I had was that my professors were across the country and while they did a great job of ensuring my assignments were relevant, they were not exactly part of my local church and couldn’t really come alongside me to implement the things I was learning in a practical way. This environment is critical to certain types of leadership roles. For instance, if you aspire to write Bible commentaries, or work on a translation team, a dedicated time in seminary is definitely for you. But the danger of spending a bunch of time away from the work of the church just to prepare for going back is that you risk investing in ideas that are incongruent with your local context; you risk dreaming dreams that are born from academia rather than from the needs of your neighbor.

What if there was a way to bridge the gap between the seminary, the sanctuary and the streets? What if an aspiring leader in a local church could learn from some of the best scholars in the world, but also continue serving in her local context? Or what if a mature church leader could spend a few hours a week to exponentially increase his ability to lead in the local church?


The Commissional Institute (CI) operates in a manner similar to a college but for local leaders in their local context. Classes with graduate-level curriculum are offered each season
and assignments are hyper-practical and often involve actually pushing mission forward in the local church. The goal is to learn while we are working together for Christ, not learning as a prerequisite for mission. We dream of men and women from a variety of local churches coming together to grow the next generation of key leaders.


The way this works is we have a cohort of students meet every week for a couple hours. Some classes are live by local teachers, but most of the curriculum is built around video lectures taught by the best teachers in the world. There is a local director (my colleague Jared Murray) that is responsible for assignments and navigating class discussion during the video lectures. What is unique about CI is that are strategically building courses around the best seminary level classes available via video. We expect this blended learning method to be extremely effective.


Part of the beauty of the CI is that as part of the certificate program we learn how to use Logos Bible software. During class we will stop to learn how to do things on our own. A very simple example is if a teacher references a particular Greek word, the class will be able to pull up the lexicon to discover the full range of meanings for that word right on their laptop or tablet. This is just the very tip of the iceberg! Every student will be equipped with their own copy of Logos Silver Library to keep forever – this is a ridiculously well equipped digital library with cutting edge study and research tools including the 49 Volume Tyndale Commentary set, and tools for original language study.


Here is the course listing:

BI101 Introducing Biblical Interpretation
BI201 The Story of the Bible
TH101 Introducing Bible Doctrine I: Theology, Divine Revelation, and the Bible
TH102 Introducing Bible Doctrine II: The Triune God and His Heavenly Host
TH103 Introducing Bible Doctrine III: Humanity, Salvation and Last Things
LD102 The Missional Leader and the Inner Life
LD121 Introducing Transformational Leadership
CI101 Commissional Ecclesiology: The Church and her Mission
CI201 Innovation for Post-Christian Discipleship

Due to the way we want to integrate use of Bible software tools, and our desire to provide holistic training for leaders, we are choosing to primarily offer the whole program, rather than individual classes. We have 6 or 7 students signed up for the program already and we will have to cap it at 15. Starting in January we will meet in the evening for 2 hours each Sunday. Classes will run between 8-12 weeks in length. And we will cover 4 classes each year. We are taking this very seriously and are looking for students who are ready to make an investment in their growth and in the ministry leadership capacity. Students are expected to complete 2-4 hours of reading or assignments each week and come prepared to engage the material. The program is designed to be much more accessible than a Masters program in seminary, but rigorous enough to prepare for significant leadership roles. The investment for this certificate program is the course listing above, offered over 30 months; with a financial investment of $50/mo or $1500 total; and commitment to homework, reading and assignments.

We do intend to offer individual classes to cover specific areas of study, but theses are TBD. And we have a very limited number of audit slots available for each class, so if the cert program isn’t an option, still reach out to us if you are interested.


I honestly think that local leadership development is one of the strategic missing pieces in the church today. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to announce this opportunity to help grow some of these missional leaders right in our backyard, here in central NJ. Jared and I are the co-founders and as we launch, this effort is supported by Branch Church and First Baptist Church, but we hope to be a resource for many churches in the area.

Visit http://commissional.org to download the program plan to see what the courses are or get in contact with us to discuss further.