Transition-into-Ministry Programs

In 1999 Lilly Endowment began supporting a small number of pilot projects aimed at assisting new pastors in making the critical transition from seminary student to full-time pastor as part of its larger effort to strengthen the preparation of pastoral leaders.

Like all professions, the first years of a ministerial career are often challenging. Young ministers must establish a new identity as pastor and develop the work and study habits necessary from providing spiritual leadership to their congregations. Yet many new pastors in their first congregations find themselves professionally and geographically isolated, receiving too little support in working through tough transitional issues and developing a healthy pastoral identity. The result is that many promising and gifted young pastors become frustrated and drop out of ministry within the first years of their service. In other cases, inexperienced pastors may slip into leadership styles and practices that are detrimental to congregational life and unable to sustain their ministries. The goal of this initiative is to strengthen pastoral leadership by supporting a variety of pilot projects that test new ways for helping new pastors move through the transition from student to pastor.

The majority of projects are congregation-based residency programs in which, like the medical school model, new pastors spend time as "residents" in a teaching congregation before assuming leadership of their own church. Other grants in this invitational program include innovative projects designed and implemented by regional and national judicatories, theological schools, and a network of congregations within a denomination. The diversity of projects in this program will test and discover the best ways for helping new pastors get off to a good start.

The Endowment has invested $38 million and made grants to 31 institutions. 

The program director for this grant program is Christopher Coble, 317/924-5471.

The coordinator for this grant program is the Fund for Theological Education. For more information, click here.