I nitiatives in the field of strengthening pastoral leadership reflect a wide array of grants to organizations that are helping cultivate, educate and launch the next generation of pastors and grants to organizations that are helping to sustain strong pastors across the course of their careers in ministry. The initiatives are:
Theological Programs for High School Youth at Seminaries – In 1998 and 1999, the Endowment awarded grants to 48 seminaries to create innovative youth theology programs. These programs introduced youth to biblical and theological study, provided them with opportunities for worship and spiritual formation, engaged them in ministry projects, provided them with adult mentors, and encouraged them to explore callings in Christian ministry. Today, more than 20 percent of these young people have matriculated to seminary and into vocations in Christian leadership. LEARN MORE
Theological Institutes for High School Youth at Colleges and Universities – Building on the efforts of the Theological Programs for High School Youth at Seminaries, the Endowment awarded 92 grants to colleges and universities in 2015 and 2016 to design and launch theology institutes for high school youth. These programs help young people explore in depth sacred scriptures and theological traditions and examine the moral and ethical dimensions of contemporary challenges, draw on the wisdom of their religious tradition as they make decisions about their futures, and consider vocations in full-time ministry and religious leadership. Learn More
Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation – Between 2012 and 2015, the Endowment awarded 104 grants to campus ministry organizations serving students at public universities to create opportunities for college students to examine questions about their faith and help them draw on the wisdom of their religious traditions as they make decisions about their values and careers. These grants provide students with leadership development opportunities in pastoral ministry through internships in congregations and training to be peer ministers. Other project activities engage students in conversations about faith and vocation and pair them with mentors in local congregations and community leaders to explore connections between their faith and career choices. Learn More
Initiative to Strengthen Fundraising in Historic Black Theological Schools – In 2014, the Endowment awarded grants to support six historic black theological schools to launch projects aimed at sharpening their fundraising strategies and building up their development capacities in ways that are tailored to their own theological tradition, context, location, congregational constituency and size. The seminaries: hired their first personnel devoted entirely to fundraising and institutional advancement; acquired and/or expanded the use of fundraising software, thereby gaining greater knowledge of their constituents and prospects; established or expanded programs for alumni/donor relations; and initiated significant cultural shifts in how future fundraising will be incorporated into the school’s ongoing life. Recognizing the relationship between institutional advancement and overall leadership and governance, many schools also engaged in board development activities to strengthen their governance structures and practices. LEARN MORE
Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers – In 2012 and 2013, the Endowment awarded grants to 67 seminaries to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the well-being of future pastoral leaders. These schools have studied in detail the economic experiences of their students and implemented a variety of programs aimed at addressing specific financial challenges that they face. Most have introduced new institutional practices focused on reducing educational indebtedness among seminarians and designed new courses and workshops to increase the financial literacy and personal financial management skills of students. Working with partner organizations, many have launched new fundraising efforts to increase financial aid and reduce the need for students to take out loans. Learn More
Transition-Into-Ministry – In 1999 and 200, the Endowment awarded grants to 39 organizations to create projects aimed at assisting new pastors in making the critical transition from seminary student to full-time pastoral leader. The majority of the projects funded were congregation-based residency projects in which, like the medical school residency model, new pastors spend time as “residents” within a congregation before assuming leadership of their own church. Learn More
Early Career Pastoral Leadership Development – Between 2007 and 2014, the Endowment awarded grants to 17 organizations to help pastors explore the roles that their churches can play in helping their communities flourish. These programs gather groups of early career pastors with five to 10 years of ministerial experience regularly for two years and engage them in conversation with civic leaders and policy-makers about major challenges facing their regions. Learn More
Initiative to Strengthen the Quality of Preaching – Between 2012 and 2014, the Endowment awarded grants to 19 theological schools to design and launch preaching projects that help working pastors enhance their preaching skills through peer learning and educational programs, improve preaching instruction for seminary students and make more accessible high-quality Web-based sermon preparation resources. More than a thousand working pastors nationwide have taken part in initiative-supported peer learning groups focused on preaching. Many pastors who had felt isolated in their ministry, particularly in their role as preachers, have expressed new appreciation for their ministry colleagues and increasingly regard sermon preparation as a ministry task best practiced in a community of competent peers. Learn More
Indiana Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastors – In 2007 and 2008, the Endowment awarded 16 grants to assist regional denominational judicatories serving Indiana congregations in developing new programs to reduce or alleviate some of the key financial pressures that undermine the leadership effectiveness of their pastors. Judicatories are providing a wide range of educational services: financial planning and counseling for pastors and their families; programs to help pastors better understand issues such as budgeting and how to build compensation packages that take advantage of distinctive clergy tax laws; and training sessions that provide advice to congregations on church budgeting and sound financial management. Above all, more than 1,200 Indiana pastors and their families have received grants from the Ministerial Excellence Funds created and matched by these judicatories. These grants have helped the pastors take positive financial steps in their own lives to pay down or pay off student loans and medical bills, establish savings accounts for their children’s education, purchase health insurance, and create or contribute to retirement accounts.
National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders – Building on the momentum of previous efforts, in 2015 and 2016, the Endowment awarded grants to 38 religious organizations to reduce or alleviate some of the key financial pressures that impair effective pastoral leadership and improve financial literacy among parish pastors. Common activities include: providing incentives to pastors and their spouses to participate in educational events related to personal finance; offering low- to no-cost professional financial planning and counseling; providing matching contributions for pastors (and congregations) to enroll in pension savings programs; helping pastors create emergency funds; developing programs to help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt; and creating new scholarship funds so that seminarians borrow less while in school.
Thriving in Ministry Initiative – In 2017, the Endowment awarded 24 grants to religious organizations to create and/or enhance projects that help clergy thrive in their roles as pastoral leaders and thus enhance the vitality of the congregations that they serve. The Endowment encouraged organizations to focus especially on efforts designed for younger clergy and pastors who are in the midst of significant professional and personal transitions to help them build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as exemplars and role models and who can guide them through key leadership challenges during these transitional moments. LEARN MORE