The Heroic Leadership Institute exists to engage and partner with young adults to train and release them into joining what God's doing in the world today.

We do this by providing the necessary tools for a lifelong journey of reflective spiritual formation, thorough biblical education, hands-on ministry participation, and transformational engagement in local church communities

HLI is committed to raising a generation of risk-taking leaders whose identity is rooted in the Fathers love.

General Questions

What differentiates HLI?

Many of you may be familiar with the terms “gap year,” “DTS,” or “Master’s Commission” that vary in time-line, content and outreach options. A discipleship school is a concentrated season where in you will put yourself in God’s hands to set the course for a Kingdom-empowered life. At HLI, we want you to experience God, learn, grow and try things. We want you to wrestle through who you are and who you are not in order that you might set the foundation for a life of radical faith. Specifically we are incorporating the 5 Core Vineyard Values and 4 of the ancient pillars taken from centuries of spiritual exercises to create a holistic training program that gives you practical training for a lifetime of ministry. One of our huge values is that we are local church based, which means you will be doing training and outreach with a rich variety of local churches, everything from smaller rural churches to inner-city churches, church plants, multi-site churches, churches in the developing world and as many different styles and variety as possible! The goal is that HLI graduates would be able to walk into any community and see what God can do in and through a local body of Jesus followers.

Who Should Apply?

Anyone interested in taking a concentrated season (aka: 9 months) to put themselves in God’s hands to set the course for a Kingdom empowered life. This school is especially designed for anyone who desires to lead either as a full-time or lay-leader in the body of Christ. The school is geared towards an age group of 18-30something.

“HLI not only pushed my life in a 180 turn, but it cracked me open by actually teaching me how to have a relationship with my creator and breaking off the junk that held me down in my past. I learned what it meant to serve and how to lead myself through my everyday life. Words cannot express what God has done in me through this Institute, but if I had to sum up the whole experience in one word, it would be nothing short of ‘dynamic’.” – Ethan Audie, 2012 student from Lisbon, Maine

What can I expect in return?

When you return to your life after HLI you will have hands on experience with the many aspects of the local church (think everything from worship, youth or children’s ministry to servant evangelism to treasure hunts), you will have been given the opportunity to encounter Jesus in real, relevant, and perhaps new ways. You will also have some real-life, legit skills like event planning, creative media know-how, and public speaking abilities.

What type of job placement does HLI offer?

HLI does not officially offer job placement, but we do have a large network of churches all across the nation (and the globe) where some opportunities may emerge. Most of our network is made up of Vineyard churches (or at least amongst churches with similar theological moorings).

Where will this happen?

HLI is available in 2 locations: Duluth, MN (Duluth Vineyard Church), and Kansas City, MO (Vineyard Church). As a regionally-based program, each site will explore at least 10 different Vineyard churches in their region through serving in outreaches, hearing from pastors, and attending conferences. Students will experience an international outreach for 3 weeks, working with the various Vineyard partnerships in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, or Mazatlan Mexico (location varies by site).

Where will I be Staying?

Students stay in host homes with some solid and passionate families in the local Vineyard church. They will provide a room, bed, and an available bathroom. There will provide some meals on weekends. All host families are well-known to the staff of the local Vineyard, have proven character inside and out of the church, have gone through an application and screening process, and have space. You may have a roommate. These families are safe, and you will be matched before you arrive.

Is HLI accredited?



Who will care for my child if they are sick?

Your child will be a part of a community that will be looking out for them and caring for them. We have a volunteer base from the local Vineyard that will be making meals, hosting events, hosting students, and yes, caring for them if they get sick. The HLI staff will also serve as mentor and will be aware of any ailments that come to be. Your child should be on your medical insurance (unless they have their own).

Can I come visit my child?

While we will be hosting various events to which we welcome family, we encourage you to limit your visits during the 9 month training. You may remember how crucial your own young adults season was as you discovered who you were and were able to spread your wings away from family dynamics and comforts. You will at no time be prohibited from visiting, unless we find it is a distraction to the class and the other students

What can I expect when they return?

Our hope is that every student will become heroic leaders fully engaged in the Kingdom, the life of the church, serving and loving their families and communities well. See HLI Graduate sample resume.


Who will be my instructors?

We will be bringing in world-class teachers, leaders, spiritual directors and mentors for different parts of the journey. Some will be in person; some will be via video (e.g. VI’s Derek Morphew) or video conference. Past HLI instructors have included Jay Pathak, Steve Hamilton, Phil & Janet Strout, Michael & Brenda Gatlin, Jenna & Shawn Stepp, Craig Simonian, and many more. See Site Pages for specific Director/staff information.

Will I be able to have a part-time job?

No, the school is full time. You will have 1-2 day(s) off a week, depending on that week’s travel schedule.

When does it start and end?

September – May

When will I know if am accepted?

You will be contacted by phone by a member of the HLI staff once you have been accepted. If you have not been called by August 1, please contact us to check up on the process.

How Much does it cost?

The cost for the entire program is $5960.00 which include your lodging, training including local and international missions trip. Applications are due August 10. We are only taking a limited amount of students, so be sure to get your application in as soon as you can! Once you have been accepted, a non-refundable $500 deposit is due to hold your spot.

What does tuition not cover?

In addition to your personal items and recreational expenses, you will be expected to provide your own snacks (meals will be paid for through tuition.)

What do we eat?

Part of the program will include learning how to budget and plan a meal. Some meals you will cook, others you will shop, random meals may be provided by our wonderful volunteers. Either way, you will eat lunch and dinner every day (breakfast is on your own, though we are pretty sure coffee will always be found somewhere on campus.) We hope to teach you all about local foods and ways to create a meal for $2/person…ahhh, life-tools at it’s best!

Pastors/ Youth Leaders

Why would I send my best and brightest young leaders to HLI?

This question makes us laugh a little because, as leaders, we are not “sending” our young people anywhere, they choose where they will go and what they will do with their lives. As you likely have experienced, there are a million voices pulling at them, towards money, fame, comfort, and various expectations. Why not be a voice that directs them to lay a foundation for a lifetime of heroic leadership? Why not encourage them to take a season to wrestle through their gifts and learn how to build a team? Why not give them a head start by letting them wrestle through their strengths and weaknesses so that they know what can take them out of the game and don’t waste years of their lives trying to be someone they are not or in the comparison trap? Why not give them a radical love for the Kingdom of God and it’s very relevant power to change a very broken world? Then, regardless of where their journey takes them, be it academia, ministry, mission work or parenting, they’ve been given a foundation to navigate those voices that will continue to pull at them and set a course for a lifetime of being heroic leaders.

How can I hire HLI Graduates?

If you have positions in your church that you would like to have HLI graduates consider, please send full details to Jenna Stepp through this website’s contact form Here.

How can my church become an outreach site for the HLI students?

Our hope is that that HLI students would be able to serve in as many types of service/outreach projects as possible during their 9 months. Our students will be trained in prophetic/healing ministry as well as service/humanitarian outreach and more. If you have an outreach or would like to plan an event involving the HLI students, please send us details of the events including dates, purpose and how you think the students might serve. All we ask from you is that you help provide host homes and food while they are serving in your community.


Don’t see your question here?

We’d love to help you out. Feel free to contact us with any other questions you may still have.