Theological School Program to Improve the Quality of Congregational Ministry - St. Paul School of Theology

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 11/30/1998
End Date: 
Wed, 12/31/2003

Under the auspices of this grant, St. Paul School of Theology engaged with three distinct areas in order to improve its capacity for preparing candidates for congregational ministry. These areas mapped to three phases in the life of a ministerial candidate: pre-seminary, seminary years, and post-seminary. Identification, encouragement and enlistment addressed the issues prior to a ministerial candidate’s entry into the seminary. While in the seminary, assessment, education and support became the organizing elements of the school’s engagement with a prospective ministerial candidate. Upon graduation, the seminary focused on supporting the candidate through transition, probationary period, and ongoing leadership education.
Centered on the theme of God’s call to ministry, St. Paul prepared resource materials such as posters, bulletin inserts and response cards to go along with the observance of Annual Ministry Sundays in local churches of the surrounding four states. Denominationally, the seminary worked with the six United Methodist Annual Conferences in the four states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, which together constitute approximately 50% of St. Paul’s Master of Divinity enrollment. The school established a program of Pastor-Parish training for local congregations in order to develop the skills needed for discernment when persons inquire about ordained ministry from within their own congregations. Overall, the school designed this phase to help discern the potential candidate’s fitness for ordained ministry.
Phase two, during a potential candidate’s seminary years, engaged with the issues of curriculum assessment and leadership education. The school performed curriculum review and related faculty projects to better align its academic programs towards its mission to “educate persons for leadership in the ministry of the church.” The school established a network of support for the seminary students through “Amplify”, a young adults seminarians group on campus. The group offered support and avenues for discussing young adult ministries. Members of this group help set up the Young Adult Seminarians Network sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Consisting of seminarians from thirteen United Methodist seminaries, the group offered mutual support and encouragement towards academic and spiritual preparation for ministry in the United Methodist Church.
In order to ensure that upon graduation the ministerial candidates indeed move from readiness for ministry at the beginning of the probationary period to effectiveness in ministry at the end of the probationary period, St. Paul conducted a Probationary Consultation in January 2003 to supplement an earlier research on the clergy probationary process. The school concluded that mentoring was the most significant factor for assisting probationers in their transition from readiness for ministry (upon graduation) to effectiveness in ministry (at the time of ordination). St. Paul established a program to enhance the mentoring process which included training events for mentors, a training guide and a comprehensive bibliography on mentoring in church contexts.