GBHEM Directors Approve Framework for Young Clergy Initiative

Date Posted: 8/19/2013

Categories for distributing funds from the Young Clergy Initiative will be fleshed out and fine-tuned by the Dream Team, a group of 12 young clergy, campus ministers, pastors, youth ministers, annual conference and seminary staff with expertise in various areas relating to discernment and young clergy issues.


The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Board of Directors will then evaluate and give input for the plan, which focuses on leveraging the funds by giving grants to people who have some kind of track record of success across The United Methodist Church.


The $7 million Young Clergy Initiative was created to encourage young adults in the United States who wish to respond to God's call to ordained ministry and was approved at the 2012 General Conference, with the funds to come from money previously budgeted for general church agencies. The Rev. Trip Lowery, GBHEM’s director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment, noted that the actual funds available are dependent on apportionment fund collections and is more likely to about $5.2 million.


“We are looking for ideas of imagination, not just trying to fix a static problem,” said the Rev. Bridgette Young Ross, GBHEM’s assistant general secretary for Collegiate Ministry. “We are trying to take a mid-twentieth century church into the twenty-second century.”


During their Aug. 7-9 meeting in Nashville, directors discussed the six categories proposed for grant requests, and decided those and other plans should be refined by the Dream Team, which is meeting Sept. 5-6.


“There’s no silver bullet to the young clergy crisis. The various cultures and contexts of the church’s ministry are nearly beyond comprehension. The places and ways we identify, affirm, and assist those whom God is calling into ordained leadership should be just as varied,” Lowery said.


Jodi Cataldo, director of Leadership Development for the Dakotas Annual Conference, said the six proposed categories look too structural and institutional. She and other directors proposed that the dream council come up with boarder concepts that could spark the imagination.


Barrie M. Tritle, senior pastor of Iowa City First United Methodist Church, said he liked the broader concept of “imagination grants,” while other board members suggested only having three categories.


One suggestion was call, recruitment, and formation.


“One of the beauties in the way we are thinking about spending this money is that bishops, district superintendents, and annual conferences can apply for money,” said Bishop Jim Dorff,  GBHEM’s president.


The Rev. Beth Ludlum, GBHEM’s director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation, said the staff task force that has been working on how to use the funds was trying to dig in and figure out what is actually transferable. “It’s easy to share best practices, but those may not work in another context,” she said.


“There’s not a single way to fix this, it’s about how we are creating a different culture,” Ludlum said. “We don’t want to duplicate what’s been done elsewhere; we can’t duplicate $20 million and $70 million programs.”


The Rev. Meg Lassiat, GBHEM’s director of Candidacy Mentoring and Conference Relations, noted that the legislation called the initiative “a three-quadrennia effort.”

Another part of the overall young clergy effort is the Seminary Indebtedness Task Force, charged with creating a denominational plan to reduce and eliminate seminary debt for certified candidates for ordained ministry. A final report on seminary debt  is to be presented to the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table in 2015 and submitted to the 2016 General Conference.


Further details, including a timeline and members of the Dream Council, can be found at


*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.


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