Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt has received a five-year, $456,000 renewal grant from Lilly Endowment for the “Congregational Immersion Project.” The program, part of the Endowment’s Transition-into-Ministry initiative, is designed to enhance graduates’ long-term success in congregations by focusing on the critical transition from School to first full-time ministry.
The first project began in 2006. Two “pastoral residents” are selected each year for two years of full-time work in healthy congregations with excellent pastors as mentors. They are immersed in the work of ministry across a broad range of pastoral tasks. Residents meet weekly with their pastor/mentor for reflection about their work and the learning it brings. Each church puts together a Lay Feedback Committee to provide the resident with real feedback from members, “speaking the truth in love.” Residents also are in frequent contact with their colleagues and the project’s director. Further, they return to the Disciples House annually to teach and share with current students about the challenges of beginning in ministry.
Six students so far have served in congregations in Indianapolis, Kansas City, Birmingham, Seattle, and Hopkinsville, Ky. A seventh will begin this summer in Arizona. The project assumes that students will be shaped by a deeper experience of the pastoral life, with its rich demands and rewards.
“The first experience in ministry is so formative for young pastors,” said Mark Miller-McLemore, Dean of the Disciples House. “Part of the aim of this program is to make the first experience a good one for the participants in our program, so that they will have a strong, reflective foundation for thriving over the long haul. We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for the support they provide as we seek to extend the value of the Disciples House at Vanderbilt into the first couple years of pastoral work. We’re also glad to work with some fantastic congregations and pastors as part of the process of helping young ministers learn to thrive.”
Congregations share the cost of compensation for the residents with the Disciples House. Disciples House welcomes inquiries from pastors and congregations who might be interested in exploring the program. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt has served since 1927 as the Disciples’ partner in theological education with Vanderbilt Divinity School, an ecumenical, university-based school in Nashville, Tennessee that has emphasized a rigorous theological preparation for ministry. Disciples Divinity House provides Disciple ministry students with financial assistance, subsidized living space at the Disciples House near campus, and programming intended to build a strong sense of Disciple identity and practical know-how for ministry.