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.
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.
Brite Divinity School seeks a five-year grant to establish its Thriving in Ministry Initiative project, an effort that will create intentional opportunities for pastoral leaders to develop strategies for collegial support during personal, professional and communal transitions. Through three distinct programs, this project will: 1) provide pastoral mentors for graduates of Brite Divinity school as they transition from their last year of formal theological education into ministry contexts for two years postgraduation; 2) develop resources for clergy experiencing transitions after five years or more in ministry; and 3) gather Latino/a pastors in Dallas, Texas, who are connected to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as they minister in communities and churches in transition. Brite will sustain this project through increases in annual giving, testing fee-for-service models and incorporating activities into the ongoing operations of the school.
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.
The Church of the Brethren, through its Office of Ministry, requests a five-year grant for the Part-Time Pastor; Full-Time Church program, an effort to establish a network of care and support for multivocational pastors in the Church of the Brethren. (Multivocational pastors split their time and energy between congregational ministry and other vocational commitments.) A recent survey found that two-thirds of the 900 Brethren pastors serve congregations as multivocational clergy. To support these pastors, the Church of the Brethren will send representatives to visit, listen and connect with multivocational pastors to understand more fully the challenges that they face. After the listening tours, multivocational pastors will be invited to join peer colleague groups to explore common leadership challenges with other clergy and to connect with experienced mentors who have served in similar ministry settings. To sustain the program, the Church of the Brethren will establish a modest fee structure, encourage middle judicatories to include funding in their budgets, and seek support from the denomination’s Council of District Executives and its Ministers Association.