Entry Into Ministry

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 11/01/1993
End Date: 
Sun, 06/30/1996

Grace, Mission, and New Covenant presbyteries, covering half the state of Texas, sponsored this study as a pilot project designed fill the gap between formal seminary education and the practical realities of local church leadership, by assisting a select number of recently-ordained ministers in developing personal and leadership skills for their congregations. Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which sponsored an earlier Lilly Endowment-funded project on newly ordained ministers and their first congregations, served as a partner in this study. <p> Three recently-ordained ministers from each presbytery took part in the project. These nine leaders met fourteen times over a two-year period with a five-person Leadership Team consisting of an experienced minister from each presbytery, project evaluator William Gould and project director Stewart Coffman. Each two-day meeting supported an inductive teaching/learning style focused on three seminar topics: (1) understanding one’s own congregation and community, (2) understanding oneself as a person, and (3) developing professional skills. On occasion, outside consultants were invited to address the group. General supervision of the project fell to a Project Team made up of two representatives from each of the three presbyteries plus a faculty member from Austin Seminary. <p> Specific lessons drawn from the project were as follows : (1) forming close, collegial relationships was valuable not only for the project itself but also for the ongoing practice of ministry, (2) discussions by experienced pastors on the Leadership Team was more important than presentations by outside consultants, (3) participant support in terms of money ($500 per year) and time invested helped screen applicants for the project, (4) the willingness of the newly-ordained ministers to pursue professional development came only after mutual trust was established in the personal growth seminars, and (5) the supervision and composition of the Project Team was critical in gaining the attention of leaders in other presbyteries interested in this kind of program.