Asbury Theological Seminary’s Thriving in Ministry Project is an effort that will form and support small groups (“thriving bands”) for clergy to provide mutual encouragement, mentoring, education and continuing peer relationships. Rooted in the Wesleyan tradition of class meetings, Asbury’s “thriving bands” will be composed of clergy in particular professional transitional moments, including: 1) women clergy in their first five years of ministry as well as those transitioning to senior leadership; 2) Latina/o bi-vocational pastors in their initial years of ministry when the challenges of establishing a clear identity, managing time and creating healthy family contexts require unique training, peer support and mentoring; and 3) church planters, during their inaugural period of ministry, with a focus on managing change as well as family relationships. To sustain this project, Asbury will draw on the existing financial resources, test participant-fee structures and develop cost-effective strategies to foster connections through video conferencing resources and mobile device applications.
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Azusa Pacific University (APU), an evangelical school rooted in the Wesleyan theological heritage, requests a five-year grant for partial support for its Thriving in Ministry program, an effort to expand leadership resources and provide mentors for pastors serving congregations in urban communities, especially women in ministry and pastors of color. The university will develop and implement an educational program that includes three modules that help pastors: 1) assess their health and well-being; 2) foster and support peer and mentoring relationships with colleagues; and 3) identify and develop their leadership strengths. Program activities will include coursework, workshops, webinars, assessments, reflection exercises and one-on-one coaching. In addition, the effort will invest significant time and resources into identifying and training experienced pastors to serve as mentors. To sustain this effort, APU will build program elements into its operating budget, form strategic partnerships with external organizations, solicit donations and charge modest program fees.
Belhaven University, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), seeks a five-year grant to establish the Rural Mississippi Pastors Initiative (RMPI), an effort to connect, equip, and empower 80 rural pastors from across the state to help them strengthen their leadership skills and thus help their congregations and communities to flourish. RMPI will recruit two cohorts of 40 pastors each who are serving rural communities throughout Mississippi. Gathering regularly during a 24-month period, the pastors will build supportive and lasting peer relationships, form mentoring relationships with experienced rural pastors and engage in consultations with experts on specific leadership challenges, such as conflict resolution, finance, governance and communication. Through these activities, the program seeks to deepen each pastor’s understanding of his or her professional identity. To sustain this program, Belhaven’s development office will cultivate financial support from their network of large churches and their alumni/ae donor base.
Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States of America (Catholic Extension) seeks a five-year grant to provide partial support for its Mission Immersion Program for Pastors. This effort will create mission immersion experiences that will foster life-giving and mutually enriching relationships among midcareer pastors and mission communities. Research suggests that midcareer priests are searching for new inspiration, especially those who are busy in their parishes and have begun to feel a sense of isolation from the larger church or are feeling hemmed in by the many demands placed on them. Through this project, cohorts of five to seven priests will travel to mission communities for several days to experience firsthand the church’s missionary work in distressed regions of the United States. The aim is to broaden their theological and pastoral horizons, facilitate spiritual rejuvenation, and develop deeper relationships among priests and faith communities. To sustain this work, Catholic Extension will absorb the project into its normal operations and invite congregations to increase their mission investment.
Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) —affiliated with the United Church of Christ— in an effort to support new pastors in their first years of ministry after seminary graduation, hosts a program specifically curated for new and bi-vocational clergy who are serving congregations in economically disadvantaged and marginalized communities. The CTS “Resilience in Leadership” initiative will gather pastors into five regional cohorts across the country that will meet quarterly for two years and convene annually at a consultation featuring exemplary pastors and experts. Each Resilience in Leadership program participant will also meet monthly with an experienced pastor-mentor to cultivate a vision for and negotiate the challenges of leading a small and under-resourced congregation.
Christ Church Cranbrook has received a five-year grant to re-establish the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies (IAPS) with its partner congregation, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. Originally founded by Christ Church Cranbrook in 1957, the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies aims to build clergy leadership capacities, connections and networks in Metro Detroit. Gathering intentionally ecumenical and racially diverse groups of clergy into cohorts, IAPS will host an annual conference, a five-day summer intensive seminar, and monthly learning and support groups that explore adaptive leadership and its potential for building the Beloved Community. The program will therefore provide participants with the opportunity to develop the spiritual grounding and skills necessary for personal growth, congregational leadership, and civic engagement. Administered by Christ Church Cranbrook, learning sites will be located in local congregations and allied organizations throughout Metro Detroit.