2011 - Rick Warren at Vanguard University

Rick Warren gives a sermon at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa Thursday morning as Rick Warren and Saddleback Church announce a partnership with Vanguard, a private Christian university in Costa Mesa. (STEVEN GEORGES, unknown / November 17, 2011)

COSTA MESA — Saddleback Church founder and Pastor Rick Warren, one of the nation's most recognizable religious figures, announced Thursday a partnership with Vanguard University to educate future church leaders.

Students will be able to earn credits toward a master's degree in theological studies at Vanguard University during a ministry apprenticeship through the Saddleback Church Leadership Academy.

"If you're considering a Christian school and you really want to be a world changer, this is where you need to be," Warren said in a prepared statement. "We have partnered Saddleback Church and Vanguard for a leadership training program unlike any others, particularly in the area of church planting."

If you 're interested in the fulfillment of the great commission we would encourage you to come to Vanguard where you can get a solid Christian education and at the same time get a practical training and internship program at Saddleback Church nearby where we're training worship leaders, church planters, staff members and missionaries," he continued in the statement.

Students in Vanguard's graduate religion program who enroll in the leadership academy's one-year, full-time internship can earn 18 to 48 units toward a degree. Students complete 30 units at Vanguard.

The internship is for students interested in leadership experience in children, student and adult ministries, worship arts, or church administration.

"The partnership with Vanguard will allow us to offer future church ministry leaders thorough, practical training in an accelerated format," Dave Alford, director of the leadership academy, said in a prepared statement. "We'll be able to get qualified leaders into ministry faster."

— Britney Barnes