The Thriving in Ministry Project at Lexington Theological Seminary (LTS) seeks to help pastoral leaders thrive in congregational leadership and to enhance the vitality of the congregations they serve. Beginning in 2019, Thriving in Ministry supports ministers who are in relationship with LTS by providing peer groups, mentors, and educational resources to strengthen them as pastoral leaders.
One focus of the Thriving in Ministry Project is the well-being of graduates in the first years of ministry beyond seminary. Through clergy peer groups and strengthened mentoring opportunities, LTS aims to support graduates in years one through five of congregational ministry.
A second focus of the Thriving in Ministry Project is research related to the experience of ministers who identify themselves as bi-vocational. This aspect of the project builds upon research concerning bi-vocational ministry LTS has been conducting since 2014. Through assembling a bi-vocational research team, designing and implementing a research study, and convening the Institute of Bi-Vocational Ministry, LTS seeks to support bi-vocational ministers and gain a richer understanding of this work and the people who undertake it.
Thrive Clergy Peer Groups
In years one, two, and three of the Thriving in Ministry Project LTS invites graduates involved in congregational ministry to participate in Thrive Peer Groups. The Thrive experience includes:
- Convening LTS graduates in a multi-year peer community using a cohort model;
- Learning from experienced ministers through visits to their ministry sites; and
- Embracing congregations as full partners in the conversation on clergy well-being and congregational vitality through opportunities for leadership development and life-long learning.
Involvement in Thrive groups aims to support graduates through mutually supportive relationships with ministry colleagues that strengthen their sense of pastoral identity and smooth their transition from seminarians to pastoral leaders. Thrive groups are enriched through learning from experienced pastors and partnerships with congregations.
Rev. Katherine Alexander, Director of Alumni and Church Relations, coordinates the Thrive Clergy Peer Group Program.
Pathways Mentoring Program
The Pathways program builds upon the existing mentoring program for enrolled students at LTS by inviting graduates to continue mentoring relationship after graduation and providing support for those relationships. The Pathways program includes:
- Supporting meetings of graduates and mentors through face-to-face meetings and distance technology;
- Developing a mentor database and identifying resources to support effective mentoring;
- Hosting gatherings for members for the LTS community that focus on the value and purpose of mentoring relationships as well as providing support for effective mentoring.
These programs reflect research on pastoral excellence and well-being affirming the value of mentoring relationships.
Rev. Jan Ehrmantraut, Coordinator of the Mentoring Program/Chaplain, coordinates the Pathways Mentoring Program.
Perspectives of Bi-Vocational Ministry – Research Study
In this area of the Thriving in Ministry project, LTS is designing and implementing a research study that seeks to learn more about the experiences of bi-vocational ministers and the congregations they serve. This research builds upon bi-vocational ministry research conducted by LTS as part of the LTS Conversation on Stewardship and Finances Project.
In the Thriving in Ministry project, the research seeks to gain a richer understanding of this work and the people who are called to undertake it and focuses on the experiences of bi-vocational ministers in contexts where bi-vocational ministry has been a traditional practice, such as in rural communities and in Latinx and African American contexts. The study involves:
- Designing and implementing a research study focused on learning more about effective bi-vocational ministry;
- Structuring educational opportunities for bi-vocational ministers, conducting interviews, and fielding surveys;
- Analyzing and interpreting the research findings and preparing a rich report of what has been learned.
The Institute of Bi-Vocational Ministry
The Thriving in Ministry project provides opportunities for personal and educational growth as well as reflective conversations for bi-vocational ministers. This includes programs of academic and continuing education courses, gatherings, and clergy mentoring circles during the tenure of the project. LTS faculty and guests are teachers and leaders for the Institute for Bi-vocational Ministry. The Institute includes the Certificado en Ministerios Hispanos (Certificate in Hispanic Ministries) and the Certificate in African American Ministry among other programs.