Hood Theological Seminary Receives $1 million Grant to Establish Institute for Early Career Clergy Development


Thriving in Ministry Initiative

Hood Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1 million help establish the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative.

The Institute for Early Career Clergy Development will provide consultation, education, mentoring, and partnership for clergy in their second year of ministry through their seventh year of ministry. It will be a vehicle to foster community, to exchange information, and to collaborate missionally in North Carolina and the surrounding area. Foremost, the Institute will be a place of ministerial support for clergy of all denominations in the early part of their career, a place where they can consult with pastors who are in a similar place in their careers and in a similar ministry setting, and a place where they can continue their love of theological education.

The Institute will primary operate three programs:

Continuing Education Programs and Workshops: First, the Institute will provide opportunities for early career clergy to participate in continuing education programs and workshops on the campus of HTS as well through their online platform. Workshops, seminars, lectures, and conferences will be taught by HTS faculty and guest speakers involved in various church ministries (regionally and nationwide). Examples of continuing education might be participation in a preaching institute or in dismantling racism training. There will be particular focus given to continuing education for ministry in the rural settings.

The Rural Pastors Program: Second, the Institute will address the concerns of rural pastors specifically. Rural pastors often experience “burnout” at a higher rate. To correct this, the Institute will connect pastors in rural settings who have another characteristic in common. It will host one retreat in the spring of each year designed to connect women in rural ministry, those who are serving cross-racial or cross-cultural settings, those who are bi-vocational, and those who are serving more than one congregation. Through these secondary connections, rural ministers will be able to focus on one unique aspect of their ministry context besides its being rural. This will provide a support platform, specifically for women whose ministerial authority tends to be questioned in the rural setting.

The Junior and Senior Clergy Cohort Program: Third, the Institute will partner junior and senior clergy. The cohorts will be asked to meet on their own accord three times per year in addition to an annual retreat each fall. This cohort will allow clergy in their early years of ministry to learn from senior pastors in terms of time-management, self-care, expectations, mission, and evangelism.

Dr. Ashley B. Dreff, current Director of United Methodist Studies and Assistant Professor of History of Christianity at Hood Theological Seminary, will also serve as the Director of Ministerial Formation of the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development. She says, “My goal for the Institute is two-fold. First and foremost, we want to create a multi-denominational cohort of early career clergy who can support each other and be a sounding board for each other while they seek to find the best ways to minister with their contexts. Second, as a seminary, we also want to remind early career clergy that true ministerial and theological education is a lifelong process.”

According to Hood Theological Seminary President Vergel Lattimore, “We are committed to excellence and effectiveness in the practice of ministry throughout the life cycle of the leadership. It is the vision of the Institute for Early Career Clergy Development to identify vital competencies and resources for dynamic self-understanding and for rich sustained professional growth based on integrity, trust, and genuine collaboration.”

Hood Theological Seminary is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. Hood Theological Seminary, located at 1810 Lutheran Synod Drive, Salisbury, North Carolina is a graduate and professional school sponsored by the A.M.E. Zion Church and approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church.

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grant making priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Hood Theological Seminary’s Institute for Early Career Clergy Development, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.

« Back to News