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.
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