Big projects, new partners

Illustrations by Rose Wong

Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative last year gave out 16 grants in Phase 3, the final round of funding. The initiative is intended to help schools create new pathways for people to receive a theological education and move into church ministry. In the third phase, ATS-accredited schools were required to have partners and collaborate. The grantees have strong proposals, offering a range of partnerships, ideas, and solutions to address issues the schools are facing. In this piece, In Trust has created short summaries of the project proposals, which do not include all facets of every project. These include thoughts about the projects’ importance to the overall field. In the coming months, the In Trust Center will cover the initiatives further.


Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Location: Elkhart, Indiana
Partners: There are seven partners. The group is recruiting more members.
Title: CHANGE (Configuring Higher Education Administration for Next Generation Excellence)
Amount: $5 million

The project: AMBS and its partners have an ambitious proposal to create a nonprofit organization that would run administrative services for theological schools. Areas for initial exploration include financial aid, registrar, human resources, IT, library services, Title IX, and business office support. Schools would subscribe to the services, and the initiative intends that, if it meets expectations, it could reduce the costs of early adopters by 50% and 45% for those who join later.

Why it’s important: The initiative is focused on scaling services, thus freeing up significant portions of school budgets. The result could ease financial pressures and redirect money to help further a school’s mission.


Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at Evangel University

Location: Springfield, Missouri
Partners: Denomination and church-planting network.
Title: Ministry Leaders for Tomorrow
Amount: $5 million

The project: Seeking to develop more ministers, the project is working with denomination officials in the Assemblies of God to identify and encourage high school and college students who feel called into ministry and help them discern and fulfill their calling. The plan includes the creation of a summer camp to help students discern a calling and would help bring students both to and through an undergraduate degree to a seminary degree. It would also create opportunities for employment, including in church planting.

Why it’s important: The proposal outlines a strong partnership among the school, its denomination, and denominational agencies, and it would create a pathway toward employment for students. Such a model could be a good roadmap for others.


Big projects, new partners

Azusa Pacific University

Location: Azusa, California
Partners: Latin American Bible Institute and Life Pacific University.
Title: Transformational Training Pathways for Hispanic Leaders
Amount: $4,999,904

The project: The project brings together three schools with differing missions and accreditations to create a unified program that will offer students access to theological education, from a certificate to a doctorate, all in Spanish. It will develop (not translate) a contextual curriculum in Spanish and also provides coaching and support for students.

Why it’s important: The project creates entry points for people of any educational background in Spanish, while providing support. It also should create strong bonds among three schools that serve distinct student groups.


Candler School of Theology, Emory University

Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Title: None
Partners: AETH (La Asociación para la Educación Teológical Hispaña) and others.
Amount: $5 million

The project: Candler and its partners are reaching out in a number of ways to make ministerial education more accessible, including through a new school of ministry and certificate-level education for ministerial credentials in denominations that don’t require a degree. As well, a new center will help support Bible institutes and certificate programs. AETH will also provide affiliated Bible institutes with increased library access. And, there’s the creation of a summer institute for global Charismatic and Pentecostal studies.

Why it’s important: From providing digital library access to helping support Bible institutes, the proposal is a response to previous Pathways work on the diversity of theological education. It should bolster those in non-credentialed programs while also providing a way to seminary education for several groups that might not otherwise have access.


Eden Theological Seminary

Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Title: Navigating the Shift: A Network Model for Theological Education
Partners: Eden has over a dozen partners.
Amount: $4,999,995

The project: The project will create a network of progressive schools, undergraduate schools, and ecclesial judicatories. The network will increase the breadth of theological education and take advantage of distance and contextual education programs.

Why it’s important: The network will create new capacity for the schools through course and faculty sharing and will increase demand for and access to theological education for students in undergraduate programs and for those seeking ministerial authorization through their ecclesial bodies.


Big projects, new partners

Kairos University

Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Title: Working Together in the Vineyard: Expanding Kairos University and Extending the Kairos Project to Underserved Groups
Partners: Multiple schools, including those schools that formed Kairos University.
Amount: $5 million

The project: Sioux Falls Seminary has innovated and experimented with competency based theological education for several years and formed Kairos University with several other schools. The new project will help integrate the schools that formed Kairos and build out systems, while inviting others into the effort to equip more pastoral leaders.

Why it’s important: Kairos’ leadership has always been willing to work with others and this will expand that, not only helping build out its distributed system of collaboration but also offering other schools a way to consider partnering, innovating, and exploring.


NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community

Location: Montague, Prince Edward’s Island, Canada
Title: Canadian Learning Community for Decolonization and Innovation in Theological Education
Partners: Acadia Divinity College, Ambrose Seminary, and Tyndale Seminary.
Amount: $5 million

The project: Focused on decolonizing theological education in Canada, the proposal will create an inter-institutional learning community that crosses many denominational lines and promises a robust effort to develop curriculum and pedagogies to address decolonization, contextualization, and indigenization including addressing the needs of diasporic ethnic communities. It plans to include churches and pastors in discussion and offers research and other substantial steps to implement and track progress.

Why it’s important: This initiative is poised to not only help theological schools in Canada make thoughtful changes to address a difficult issue, but it could also demonstrate how others can approach similar work in their own contexts.


In a time of disruption in theological higher education, the pathways for tomorrow initiative is providing schools the opportunity to experiment and create new ways forward.


Northern Baptist Theological Seminary

Location: Lisle, Illinois
Title: Seminary Now 3.0
Partners: Starting with four ATS-accredited schools.
Amount: $4,999,792

The project: Seminary Now is a subscription-based, streaming platform that offers church leaders video courses. This proposal would expand that with for-credit courses for pre-seminary students and build out the infrastructure in the program. It would create a pipeline from people taking exploratory courses to a seminary degree.

Why it’s important: The initiative creates a funnel for students to go from not-forcredit courses to the seminary, and it provides a strong push to educate the church.


Pacific School of Religion

Location: Berkeley, California
Title: Ignite: A New Educational Ecosystem for Diverse Christian Leaders
Partners: Several schools (including unaccredited schools), networks, and congregations.
Amount: $5 million

The project: Ignite has several ways to create entry points and help students, including a plan for affordability, a focus on people of color, and a new learning platform that will open doors to a variety of students. The platform will have an affordable membership plan to allow wide access. The project also includes a “stackable” curriculum for the master’s degrees that is expected to open up access and affordability.

Why it’s important: The use of a variety of tools, including creating a new platform, shows a holistic view of how students may access theological education. The different levels of education also provide multiple entry points.


Palm Beach Atlantic University

Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
Title: Tentmakers for Today’s Church: Forming Community Pastors for Congregational Flourishing
Partners: Baptist Health and Sankofa CPE Center.
Amount: $5 million

The project: The initiative will develop new M.Div. tracks for Black and Hispanic pastors who are multivocational, providing contextual education for ministry in the community, including Clinical Pastoral Education. The initiative also will provide support for students who are unable to leave their jobs, and the proposal expects to be self-sustaining after five years.

Why it’s important: The initiative offers ways for students to thrive in ministry contexts as multivocational leaders. It also includes the potential for expansion in south Florida, offering a model for other programs elsewhere.


Saint John’s University School of Theology & Seminary

Location: Collegeville, Minnesota
Title: Sustained Encuentro: Accompanying One Another on the Way
Partners: Mexican American Catholic College.
Amount: $5 million

The project: The plan aspires to create new leaders, particularly for rural churches, by building partnerships with rural dioceses, parishes, and organizations. The initiative will offer adapted degree and certificate-level courses to train people studying for diaconal and lay ecclesial through remote learning. Spanish-language courses will be available, and Saint John’s and MACC will offer joint courses and immersion programs as part of ministry formation and leadership training.

Why it’s important: The initiative focuses on growing leaders and a dedication to a renewal of ministry in rural America, where economic and demographic shifts have led to major changes in ministry and parish life.


Big projects, new partners

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University

Title: The Andrews Center for Community Change
Location: Berrien Springs, Michigan
Partners: Health and community service networks, as well as ministry networks.
Amount: $5 million

The project: The seminary and its partners will create the Andrews Center for Community Change at Andrews University, which will train ministers to better engage with their communities in community development projects. These projects will address physical, mental, economic, and social needs. Over the course of the grant, the initiative will take on up to 280 churches to provide training, mentoring, and support to identify specific issues and create ways to engage people around them.

Why it’s important: The project provides significant ways for the school to help pastors and churches with issues that have often been difficult for churches to tackle. This program places an emphasis on creating empathy in ministers and a contextual understanding of ministry. It promises an innovative approach for church leaders to find new ways into their communities.


Union Theological Seminary

Location: New York
Title: Taking Off the Roof: Cultivating Collaboration and Ministerial Ingenuity
Partners: Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, New York Theological Seminary, and several colleges and nonprofit organizations.
Amount: $5 million

The project: The initiative aims to create collaborative models for managing campus operations, promoting student success, expanding academic opportunities, and forging technology innovation. It includes partnerships with other small, independent theological schools as well as area colleges and nonprofit organizations. And there’s the creation of a design thinking-driven technology lab that will bring together theological schools, art and design experts, faithbased social justice organizations, and pastoral leaders.

Why it’s important: The proposal widens the scope of partnerships and collaborations that could serve as a model for other schools.


University of St. Mary-of-the-Lake / Mundelein Seminary

Location: Mundelein, Illinois
Title: Cor Iuxta Meum (After My Own Heart) Project
Partners: Five seminaries and denominational organizations.
Amount: $4,999,886

The project: The initiative is focused on formation and plans to offer simulation training for those in ordained and lay leadership tracks, based on the simulated models used in medical training. The campus will build a simulation lab that will help prepare students for ministry, creating real-life situations and creating more holistic ministers. It also will allow ongoing ministry training.

Why it’s important: This type of pedagogy, effective in other fields, is poised to be a model for other schools that are looking at introducing a pedagogy that incorporates affectivity while increasing practical and skills-based training.


Big projects, new partners

University of Notre Dame

Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
Title: Haciendo Caminos: Theological Education for New Generations of U.S. Latino/a Catholics
Partners: Boston College and 16 other Catholic institutions of higher education.
Amount: $7,950,555

The project: The initiative will create more pathways to theological education and spiritual formation for U.S.-born Hispanics in the Catholic Church and develop new pastoral leaders for the church. The initiative will fund fellowships, summits to help students discern a call to ministry, and symposia to provide students with formation. There’s also work to expand schools’ networks with church leaders and a study to assess best practices. The initiative provides a holistic approach toward recruiting and nurturing students.

Why it’s important: Given the size and scope of the plan, there’s great potential for the Roman Catholic Church to form and educate a new generation of leaders.


Schools are using the grants to give more people a theological education, create new leaders in the church, try new methods of teaching, and create a brighter future.


Wesley Theological Seminary

Location: Washington, D.C.
Title: None
Partners: Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, and denominational entities.
Amount: $5 million

The project: The initiative will create new ways to bring students into ordained ministry through alternative education plans, including certificate programs. It calls for work with the United Methodist Church and other seminaries aligned with the UMC to strengthen education offerings for ministers. The credentialing programs could serve as entryways into master’s degree programs.

Why it’s important: This project offers a strong partnership between schools affiliated with the UMC, which could help credentialing. It also includes the development of a business model for sustainability. And, it will provide “proofs of concept” that can serve as case studie and models for others.

Correction: The print edition said that Palm Beach Atlantic University was working with Urban Renewal Center. It is no longer doing so. It is now working with Sankofa CPE Center. The story has been updated.

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