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.
Wheaton College Billy Graham Center (BGC), rooted in the Evangelical Protestant tradition, seeks a five-year grant for partial support for its Envision program. This endeavor seeks to encourage pastors to help each other learn to revitalize their congregations through missional and evangelistic engagement and growth, while maintaining a focus on the quality of congregational life. The program will gather pastors into cohorts of six to ten clergy each for peer mentoring, problem solving and mutual support. Particular emphasis in cohort recruitment will focus on younger pastors and on pastors from a diversity context, including under resourced communities. An exemplary pastor, who can mentor and coach, and a BGC catalyst coach, who brings best practices and strategies for congregational growth that have been tested throughout the country, will co-facilitate the cohorts. To sustain this effort, the BGC will seek funding from foundations and invite congregations to contribute to the costs of their pastors’ participation.
Westmont College, a nondenominational Christian college, seeks a five-year grant to create its Frontiers program, an effort to support pastors and help them find communities that will be intellectually and spiritually invigorating. A survey of nearly 800 clergy in the college’s network, conducted in the spring of 2018, helped Westmont identify the needs of two distinct populations of clergy: new and mid-career pastors. The program will serve pastors during the first years of their ministerial careers by widening their vision for their work and strengthening their commitment to the calling of ministry. It also will focus on mid-career pastors who are seeking renewal and wisdom as they consider whether to stay in their current posts or seek new positions at other congregations. In both dimensions, the pastors will have opportunities to meet with mentors and receive advice from experienced clergy through retreats and participation in peer mentoring groups. The program also will host leadership development events, provide clergy with self-reflection experiences and encourage pastors to practice spiritual disciplines. Frontiers will be included in the Westmont’s capital campaign, and the college is committed to raising an endowment for the program.
Western Seminary, affiliated with Conservative Baptist Association of America, seeks a five-year grant for partial support to launch the Center for Pastoral Flourishing program (CPF), an effort to nurture and support the long-term well-being of pastors in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The program will focus on new pastors early in their service, emerging leaders stepping into larger pastoral leadership roles, mid-career pastors encountering transitions in settings or roles, and seasoned pastors looking to contribute to the emerging next generation. The CPF will identify and intentionally incorporate more pastors into its leadership networks, sponsor forums on leadership practices that foster and sustain flourishing in ministry, form pastors into peer cohorts, produce pastoral leadership resources for personal and group learning, and provide coaching for pastors and congregations. To sustain the CPF, Western Seminary will charge participants a nominal fee and seek funding from partners who share a commitment to strong pastoral leadership.
Wake Forest University, through its School of Divinity, a multi-denominational school rooted historically in the Baptist theological tradition, seeks a five-year grant for the Shared Wisdom for Thriving in Ministry program, an effort to bring together and build supportive relationships among inter-generational cohorts of pastors who serve congregations in multiple contexts. The Wake Forest School of Divinity will work in partnership with the Center for Congregational Health in the Wake Forest Medical Center FaithHealth Division and identify 72 clergy who serve in different ministry contexts (including solo pastors, heads of staff, associate pastors, intentional interim pastors, church planters and bi-vocational pastors). These pastors will be formed into three peer cohort groups. The program will connect each pastor with a pastor-mentor and a clergy-coach, and the pastor peer cohorts will participate in a series of leadership development opportunities led by Center for Congregational Health and divinity school faculty. To sustain this work, the divinity school will fold elements of the program into its doctor of ministry degree and certificate programs, and the Center for Congregational Health will incorporate the work into its ongoing clergy continuing education programs.
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.
Vineyard USA, an association of more than 2,400 churches worldwide rooted in the Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions (“third wave”), is excited to have been awarded a five-year grant to support Vineyard’s Well-being of Pastors Initiative. This endeavor will invite at least 90 pastors over 5 years into three affinity-based peer cohorts. Each of three cohorts launches with 30-36 pastors completing a wellness survey and attending an initial retreat to get to know other cohort members. The following month and over the next two years, these affinity-group pastors will meet as a peer group in online video conferences with their affinity mentor, and he or she will meet individually with a specialized support team consisting of their mentor, a coach, and a spiritual director of their choice from a pool of top-rated professionals within the Vineyard. The individual and group meetings will occur 17 of the 23 months during the two year period. At the conclusion of each cohort’s two years together, the cohort will gather in person again and a second wellness survey will gauge the professional and personal growth of the pastors. Survey results will be used to fine-tune the program. An additional 30 pastors will take the wellness survey at the beginning and end to function as a control group for measurement accuracy. To sustain this effort, Vineyard USA will incorporate the program into its operating budget and seek financial support from individuals and congregations who are committed to pastor well-being.
Together, we will create a supportive foundation and structured network to renew the faith of pastors by enabling a conversation about identity, purpose, meaning and legacy-producing activities. University of the Ozarks, founded on the frontier two years before Arkansas’s statehood by the Presbyterian congregation, serves rural, first-generation and historically under-represented students and is uniquely positioned to implement a Thriving in Ministry Grant in service to pastors. The challenges of life seem to have narrowed, or possibly even hobbled, the agency of many pastors. We strive to rejuvenate, revitalize and refresh our colleagues. The goals of the initiative come from the pastors’ own words.
- Create a structured way for pastors to clarify their calling and align their teams to serve communities
- Develop a robust and comprehensive leadership training that meets pastors where they are, including training for teams from each of the congregations as appropriate
- Facilitate renewed communal and individual connection to the heart of the Gospel
- Create opportunities to learn to become a unifying force in the community
- Develop a more thorough understanding of “rural” from a sociological perspective, seeing communities, no matter how small, as asset-rich