Pastor Program Lands $1.5 Million Grant

by Jim Amidon

September 28, 2011

The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, founded at Wabash College in 2008, has received a $1.57 million continuation grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant provides resources that will continue the program through 2016.

“Through the good work and creativity of Dr. Raymond Williams, the pastors in this program enrich their potential to make a difference as leaders for their churches and their communities,” said Wabash President Patrick White. “We are grateful for the support from Lilly Endowment to continue this important work at Wabash.”

The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program selects 18 Indiana pastors who in their first five to ten years have demonstrated high potential for significant leadership. They participate in a series of meetings, conversations with outstanding leaders, and two study tours over a two-year period.

It provides pastors with a rich understanding of public life in Indiana and Christian resources that will help prepare them for major leadership roles in the future. The goals of the program are to enhance excellence in ministry of a group of talented young pastors in Indiana and to raise the professional and social status of ministry appropriately by expanding their circles of contacts and influence.

“We are delighted that talented younger Indiana pastors affirm the value of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership program and pleased that this grant serves as a confirmation,” said founding director Raymond B. Williams. “It enables Wabash College to continue the program through 2016, which extends the good work of the College in preparing leaders for Indiana communities.”

“The renewal grant allows the College to continue to play an important role in the education of Indiana religious leaders,” said Dean of the College Gary A. Phillips. “Wabash provides a welcoming environment for mid-career clergy participants to explore issues of great personal and community importance. In this way Wabash extends its educational mission to change lives and to make a difference in communities across the state.”

The program provides occasions for the pastors to reflect and discuss how they proclaim the gospel effectively in contemporary culture and in their local contexts; to engage Indiana leaders about the challenges and opportunities in the state, exploring with them resources in Christian thought and practice for ethical analysis and effective response to such challenges and opportunities; and to be honored for their calling and potential through reflection, renewal, stimulation, and leadership development as they build friendships and relationships across the state.

“It's been an honor to work with such talented young pastors and to see the positive impact of the program on their lives, their ministries, and their communities,” said the program’s Associate Director, Verity Jones. “These leaders will help shape the future of our state.”

The first cohort of 18 pastors participated in the program from 2009-11 and a second cohort is in the midst of the two-year program that ends in 2012. The continuation grant from Lilly Endowment will fund two additional groups of pastors in 2012-14 and 2014-16.

Participants in the program appreciate the time for reflection it provides, as well as the opportunities to build important networks.

“By spending time in dialogue about key issues with community leaders in government, education, economic development, and industry, I have discovered how sectors of our communities intersect for the common good,” said Rev. Grace Burton-Edwards, who was part of the first cohort of pastor leaders. “This program has helped me see where the church stands at the intersections in Indiana, how pastors can bring the witness of the church to these intersections, and how we can support leaders from our parishes whose vocations call them to these intersections.”

“We have learned a great deal about the life, work, and faith of these pastors at a critical point in their careers in ministry,” added Dr. Williams. “The period from five to ten years in ministry is one in which pastoral identity is shaped and the scope and manner of ministerial career is set. The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program is unique among leadership programs for pastors because it focuses on challenges and opportunities facing Indiana communities, congregations, and individuals in times of rapid economic, social, and religious change.”

“As our mission to help students learn to ‘lead effectively’ affirms, Wabash College is committed to leadership development at every level,” said President White. “We are glad to be associated with these leaders as they imagine themselves as difference-makers in a way that they may not have before. In learning more about their ambitions and their communities, we also learn new ways to facilitate the leadership development of our students, faculty, and staff.”


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