The Massachusetts Council of Churches is thrilled to share the news that we have received a grant to help establish the Lydia Fellows Program for Thriving in Part-Time Ministry. This program is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.
The Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative. How exciting that we get to be a part of this important work!
In recent years, we’ve begun to hear more and more about the struggles of pastors serving in part-time ministry positions. We’re hearing this both from leaders of our member denominations and through our regular visits to local congregations. As part-time positions are rapidly increasing in New England, we see three major barriers to thriving in part-time ministry: financial pressure, time management, and pastoral identity. The Lydia Fellows program will address these barriers by increasing connectivity, esteem, authenticity, and engagement through financially compensated fellowships.
So what will the Lydia Fellows program look like? We will gather cohorts of 10 part-time pastors, who will meet over the course of two years for retreats, dinner, and peer coaching. Through these gatherings and ongoing peer support, we will increase connectivity among part-time pastors; we will increase the esteem for the skills, creativity, and complexity involved in part-time ministry; and we will increase the sense of authenticity and engagement among pastors serving in part-time positions. Ultimately we want to see pastors flourish in part-time settings, providing new models of vibrant ministry for the Church in Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Council of Churches is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the initiative that reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. “Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including the Lydia Fellows Program for Thriving in Part-Time Ministry, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”
We here at the Massachusetts Council of Churches want to offer our thanks for your continued support. Your investment in our mission and ministry laid the groundwork that made this grant award possible. We hope that you will join us now in praying for the success of the Lydia Fellows program. We look forward to the ways in which God’s great work in and through the Church will be made visible through this exciting new opportunity.
Rev. Jennie Barret Siegal, Working Board Member