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.
The University of the South (Sewanee), affiliated with the Episcopal Church, seeks a five-year grant for its Thriving in Ministry Mentoring Network and Continuing Education Program. Based at the university’s School of Theology, the program seeks to facilitate effective collaborative mentoring for clergy serving rural communities, clergy in Latino ministries, clergy in African-American ministries, and clergy with nontraditional theological educations. The pastors will meet annually at Sewanee to receive training in the mentoring model and in topics of particular interest to the participants. Throughout each year, conveners in each group will facilitate ongoing group reflection on pastoral leadership through online discussions, conference calls and in-person meetings. Sewanee will establish and actively manage an online network to allow for further communication within and among mentoring groups between annual summits. To sustain this effort, Sewanee’s development office will solicit contributions from donors and charge participants modest fees.
The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina is planning, as part of its Thriving in Pastoral Ministry in the Episcopal Church program, an effort to launch new priests into vibrant ministries by deepening their community-consciousness and helping them form missional imaginations. The diocese will assign three new priests to serve as pastoral residents for three years in one of three congregations. The priests will rotate through these congregations, serving each congregation for one year. The congregations are geographically proximate and comprise members from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic communities. Supported by spiritual direction, supervision, mentoring, coaching from senior clergy and leadership development experiences with peers and colleagues, these new clergy will develop cross-cultural competence, missional vision, liturgical agility, leadership skills, and vocational resilience. The diocese will sustain the program by drawing on earnings from endowed funds and raising additional gifts from individuals and congregations.
St. Thomas University, a Roman Catholic university founded by the Augustinian Order, seeks a five-year grant for its Investing in Pastors: Thriving in Ministry in South Florida program. This program will gather ecumenical cohorts of early career pastors who serve multi-ethnic churches in South Florida for monthly daylong sessions that seek to strengthen the pastors’ abilities to respond more effectively and gracefully to contemporary challenges of ministry. An ecumenical group of experienced pastors will form a council of elders to meet with the cohorts to share wisdom about their experiences of ministry in South Florida. In addition, St. Thomas faculty from a variety of disciplines (such as business, law, and psychology) will work with the pastors to help them understand more broadly the challenges of ministry in South Florida. To sustain this effort, St. Thomas will seek funding from donors and identify denominational and institutional resources.
Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, an interdenominational theological school within a Christian university rooted in the Baptist tradition, seeks a five-year grant to support its Enhancing the Mission: Beeson Divinity School and Thriving Pastors program. The program aims to help pastors thrive in congregational leadership by improving the quality of mentoring and peer relationships for pastors, especially during seasons of transition in life and ministry. Led by a faculty director and associate director, the program will: 1) organize pastoral peer groups for Beeson alumni to meet monthly for fellowship, prayer, and vocational development; and 2) host conferences and workshops for pastors to address leadership challenges encountered in specific ministry settings and transitions. Such settings include church plants or revitalizations and bi-vocational settings. Initially the program leadership will focus on three ministry transitions: 1) new pastors in the first five years in ministry; 2) clergy making a transition from assistant/associate roles to lead/senior pastor roles; and 3) pastors enduring various kinds of trauma, tragedy, or other involuntary transitions. Through its established faculty and staff and growing alumni network, Beeson aims to serve churches by enriching and supporting their pastors. Program leadership and development officers will work with school and university administration to make the program sustainable in the coming years.