The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida comprises 85 congregations divided into five deaneries across 15 counties in Central Florida. It includes more than 200 active priests, approximately 100 active deacons, and more than 27,000 parishioners. The Diocese is one of a few of the 110 domestic dioceses in the Episcopal Church that have grown in recent years while most are declining. The mission of the Diocese as an institution is to serve and share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a myriad of ways throughout our neighborhoods and communities, and to raise up new leaders to continue this work. The Diocese, as an extension of the diocesan bishop’s ministry, supports the development, health, and well-being of diocesan clergy and churches. The Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida was awarded a planning grant for summer 2020 to listen carefully to the day-to-day personal and professional challenges and then to explore possible approaches to these challenges. From the activities supported by the planning grant, we have determined that thriving ministry can be realized in the Diocese by intentional programs that foster robust mentoring, collegiality, and continued clergy development. Currently, the Diocese has some programs in place to work with newly ordained priests and priests in ministry transitions, to support clergy’s ongoing development, and to foster the growth of community among clergy. However, these programs are underfunded and insufficient to meet the needs of the diocesan priests. The Diocese desires to expand the existing programs and add new components or programs. It will provide mentorship to newly ordained priests, foster robust collegiality among the clergy, promote clergy peer support, enrich clergypersons’ professional life, strengthen their ministry, emphasize the importance of clergy developing as preachers, expand the opportunities for clergy continuing education, and provide context-specific ministry training.
CAP Pastoral Flourishing is an initiative of Word of Faith Family Worship Center, Inc. (WOF), a local church of approximately 18,000 members in Austell, Georgia. Bishop Dale C. Bronner is the founder and senior pastor. The CAP Flourishing Initiative is delivered by WOF’s non-profit, Christian Alliance of Pastors, Inc. (CAP). CAP is an organization that supports pastoral visionaries in the building of the Kingdom of God. CAP offers an 18-24-month church planting process that assists church planters in assessing their readiness to plant and provides relationships, resources, and financial support for their church planting journey. Additional services beyond church planting include support of existing pastors of churches. These services expand in the areas of personal and leadership development, church growth, and organizational development. Services also include individual and group coaching, consulting, and counseling. There is also unique programming for women senior/lead pastors. CAP also continues to offer its most well-received service, Respite Retreats. CAP recognizes how stressful pastoral ministry can be and how selfless many pastors are in their ecclesial endeavors. As a result, we offer bi-annual Respite Retreats for pastors with at least five years in ministry.
Barton College, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) collegiate institution in Wilson, North Carolina, is proud to launch the Center for Vocation and Rural Ministry (CVRM). CVRM is focused on supporting pastors of small congregations and congregations of color in the region of Eastern North Carolina. The Center, functioning as a program of the Barton College Center for Religious Studies, focuses on assisting pastors who serve in full-time and bi-vocational ministry. It offers short-term sabbatical experiences, spiritual support, and intellectual and social opportunities, as well as the possibility of mentorship and relational development with other regional pastors. Each year, Eastern North Carolina pastors may apply to participate in a two-year cohort in the Revive! Renewal Experiences. These experiences offer pastors an opportunity to have a retreat experience at Barton while college personnel provide pulpit supply for them. Cohort pastors focus on their well-being throughout their time in the program and are supported by spiritual directors. Pastors are given access to Barton College's fitness, intellectual, and spiritual resources. As an institution, Barton is committed to personal wellness and wholeness, and CVRM's offerings invite local pastors to experience the same.
The Second Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal comprises 360 rural, suburban, and urban churches located in Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina serving primarily Black congregations and communities. The Wounded Healers Pastoral Support Program (WHPSP) is designed specifically to promote holistic wellbeing among all clergy in the Second District, including new/early/mid/late-career and retired pastors. WHPSP has five goals that will help pastors thrive: 1. improve self-care, 2. engage spiritual formation practices, 3. maintain healthy boundaries, 4. cultivate authentic voices, and 5. establish meaningful collegial relationships. Pastors can take advantage of the program components, which are support groups, mentoring, retreat, or online web to increase their well-being. Resulting from discussions at clergy town hall meetings and feedback from online webinars, WHPSP partners with Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and Chaney Coaching Group. Through this collaborative, clergy may receive training as mentors or the prerequisite preparation required to become a certified coach. The program also offers pastors the opportunity to participate in support groups, mentoring, retreats, and/or online Q&A website and webinars.
Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas (Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas) requests a five-year grant for the Conexión Pastors Initiative program, an effort to provide Hispanic Baptist pastors opportunities to form healthy relationships with their peers and to explore together the unique challenges and demands of their ministry settings. Building on the success of its Compañerismos program (which supports local Hispanic fellowship groups), the program will organize up to 400 pastors into 40 pastoral fellowship groups during the five-year grant period. Each group will follow a learning plan designed by the participating pastors that address the various challenges they face in ministry, including intergenerational and first-generation immigrant issues, diverse language usage, and the rapidly changing cultural needs of their communities. The 40 fellowship groups also will meet annually at a large retreat. To sustain this program, Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas will work closely with key churches in the Hispanic Baptist Churches of Texas and collaboratively with key partners, including the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist University of the Americas, to solicit contributions from donors and raise financial resources.
Union Theological Seminary is home to RISE Together, a national mentorship network specifically for women of color that connects seminarians and early/mid-career clergy with experienced female ministers, pastors, scholars and community leaders. Founded as an initiative of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (Union) in collaboration with the women of color in Ministry (WOCIM) Project, RISE supports both the professional and pastoral formation of women of color as they embark on ministerial careers and serve in church and faith-based leadership positions. RISE Together program staff are working to develop a sustainable model for the recruitment and retention of mentees, mentors and host institutions. Currently, the mentorship network has 10 cohorts in 7 cities—New York, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Lancaster, Pa., Oakland and Los Angeles with a total of 104 mentees. Host institutional partners include, RISE headquarters Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Innovative Spaces for Asian American Christianity, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Interdenominational Theological Seminary, Lancaster Theological Seminary and McCormick Theological Seminary.
Virginia Union University seeks to launch a new effort to help pastors address major personal and professional challenges. Based in its Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology (STVU), the project will provide pastors with holistic self-care, mentorship and collegial relationships, and congregational and community support. STVU will develop peer support groups for pastors, set aside sacred spaces for pastors to engage in reflection and retreats, and build support at the congregational and community levels for pastors to seek out and receive help when necessary.
Thriving in Ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary (Thriving at VTS) creates peer learning and mentoring experiences for Episcopal priests who are in the midst of professional transitions. We develop safe, accountable learning experiences for clergy to grow and infuse vitality into the congregations they serve. Thriving at VTS forms peer groups for priests whose ministry settings generate unique challenges, e.g. church planters, clergy couples, ethnic missioners, school chaplains, and women who are expanding their roles in leadership. These clergy are most likely to find themselves lacking the resources needed for continuing education and vocational flourishing. We train facilitators and mentors to lead Thriving participants through case-based/action reflection learning and to supportively challenge each priest’s commitment to his or her well-being. Through careful attention to fostering positive habits of pastoral leadership and peer work, the project seeks to build a self-sustaining culture of honest, continuous, collaborative, and intentional leadership development among Episcopal priests. VTS will sustain this project through annual participant fees and financial contributions from partner organizations.
Whitworth University, rooted in the Reformed tradition, seeks a four year grant for partial support for a program to support pastors who plant new churches in the Pacific Northwest. Pastors who start new churches often are isolated from colleagues. Church planting requires specific leadership skills, including recruiting members, training lay leaders and establishing a congregation’s governance and infrastructure. The program will create cohorts of new church planters who will meet regularly with mentors for a 12 month period. The cohort members will engage in an initial orientation week, small groups for prayer and bible study, biweekly one-on-one mentor meetings, the annual Whitworth Ministry Summit each summer, as well as a final cohort retreat. To sustain this program, the networks of cohort churches will seek contributions from successful new church starts in the Pacific Northwest that are committed to raising up the next generation of church planters.