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Emerging Leaders

Emerging Leaders is a nine month discipleship program designed to help young adults transition from college to the lay world and answer these questions: what does it look like to walk with God and make disciples for a lifetime, regardless of the context? The Emerging Leaders program exists within the Downline Institute, but it’s a more immersive, holistic experience designed for young adults ranging in age from 22-28. Every year roughly 40-50 young adults from all over the United States (and the world!) will move to Memphis to go through the program. The program consists of seven components:


Students partake in the Downline Institute, so they are being taught from some of the best local and national Bible teachers. Students will gain an understanding of the Bible’s grand meta-narrative while also walking through 60% of the books of the Bible. In addition to the Institute, Emerging leaders have an additional class each week to cover systematic theology, biblical theology, basic stewardship principles and biblical worldview topics.

Each Emerging leader has the option of one of three mission tracks to receive individualized curriculum based on their interest or calling. The goal behind each of these mission tracks is to teach and equip students regardless of desired vocation.

  • Marketplace Track – provides students with the opportunity to gain a healthy theology of work and calling. It covers topics such as: stewardship, sacred/secular divide, work and faith integration, passion and calling, and discipleship in the marketplace.
  • Urban Ministry Track – equips students to make disciples in an urban ministry environment. It cover topics such as: vision/strategy of urban ministry, how to engage a community, theology and foundational doctrine of neighborhood congregations, and discipleship in an urban context.
  • Global Missions Track – teaches students basic missiology. Students will have the opportunity to hear from full-time overseas missionaries and experts on the topic of world missions.


Emerging Leaders work at least 30 hours per week and are encouraged to work full-time jobs in the city. The goal is not to delay careers, but to grow professionally and take financial responsibility. Beyond simply working, the goal is to gain a healthy theology of work and understand what it looks like to advance the kingdom of God in the workplace.


We want Emerging Leaders to not simply intake information and consume in the city, but to be conduits of justice, healing and good. All Emerging Leaders serve at least four hours per week in the city. Memphis is full of need, so Emerging Leaders are able to serve in areas they are passionate in.


We firmly believe that the local church is God’s chosen medium for Kingdom advance and the primary source for discipleship, growth, community and authority. Emerging Leaders pursue membership at local churches and serve and grow within that context.


Each Emerging Leader is paired with a discipler from their local church or community. Disciplers are seasons ahead in life of the emerging leaders and invest life and truth in them over the course of the nine months. We firmly believe that life-on-life relationships are essential catalysts to a believer’s growth and that discipleship does not happen in the classroom. This opportunity to be mentored by an older man or woman of faith here in Memphis provides the tangible life-on-life experience that is crucial to any discipleship relationship and allows each student to witness how to live out his or her faith in all areas of life. We also ask the EL’s to disciple and teach others what they’re learning throughout the year.


The Emerging Leaders program provides a gospel-centered community of roughly 40-50 like-minded young adults who encourage and challenge each other toward Christlikeness. Beyond the Emerging Leader program, Memphis provides a vast community of Downline alumni and local church members to incorporate generational and racial diversity into everyday life. Although many Emerging Leaders move to Memphis not knowing anyone, they are quickly welcomed into a supportive family of Christ-followers in which they are challenged and equipped to impact the world for Christ.

Global Trip

Students have the opportunity to participate in a global trip with Downline. While, the trips are not required, they are highly encouraged, and most Emerging Leaders seize this opportunity to build relationships and teach discipleship overseas. The trips provide students with an opportunity to see a culmination of everything they are learning throughout the program. Many Emerging Leaders consider it to be the highlight of their year.


See what others are saying about Downline.

"The Emerging Leader program transformed my life by teaching me what Biblical discipleship truly is and by giving me a community of other ELs to discuss what God was teaching us." - Joshua Chatman 2012-2013 Junior High Pastor

"Moving to a brand new city and spending 9 months studying the scriptures was the most transforming season of my life so far. I became more aware of my brokenness and need for Christ than ever before. " - Tiffany Bukowski 2015-2016 Nanny

"The EL program has helped me grown in my understanding of the importance of close community. It has also taught me to be honest and genuine with brothers and sisters, who will encourage and point me to the Lords love." - Juan Mayén 2015-2016 Program Assistant

"Through the teaching in the classes and the life-giving encouragement from my discipler and the EL community, I have found my faith renewed and stirred afresh for disciple making. I've been challenged to pursue the Lord and actually enjoy Him and to pursue the lost and actually love them." - TJ Welter 2015-2016 Information Services

"EL was the most challenging and fun thing I have ever experienced. I could never have guessed all the ways I would have grown. I learned what it meant for God to truly be my provider, to love unconditionally, to accept grace from others and to trust without borders." - Jesikka Ajayi 2014-2015 Student Outreach Coordinator

"Emerging Leaders helped me make the transition from college to adulthood by providing me a community of ELs who were in the same season of life and by giving me a breath and depth of the scriptures, grounding me in theology, and giving me the confidence to share with others. " Levi Coon 2011-2012 Project Manager

"My experience in the EL program has set me up well to take on the challenges of ministry in a foreign culture." - Nathan Harms 2012-2013 Serving in East Asia

"The biggest role in my current season of life is being a wife and stay-at-home mom, and I am continually reminded of things that I learned during my time in the EL program that help me with discipleship in my home and with those around me." - Christa Lee 2011-2012 Stay at Home Mom & Small Business Owner

Ready to Apply?

Read the application guidelines for more information.

Application Guidelines