Young Clergy Initiative Dream Team Makes Plan for Grant Requests

September 25, 2013

Young Clergy Initiative Dream Team drafts plans for use of fund approved by the 2012 General Conference for increasing the number of Young Clergy in the UMC. Show, from left, front: Trip Lowery, Beth Ludlum, Sam Kim, Shonda Jones, Brad Farrington. From left, back row: Beth Downs, Sophia Agtarap, Melissa Wiginton, Qunicy Brown, Casey Langley, and Robin Minthorn. Not shown, Kenda Dean and Drew Dyson. Photo by Vicki Brown.

By Vicki Brown*

Funds from the $7 million Young Clergy Initiative will be used to support innovative projects of all sizes that could create "seismic change" by attracting young people to pulpits in The United Methodist Church. And prayer will be a big part of the process for anyone who gets the funds.

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, met in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 5-6. They mapped out a timeline, priorities for the grants, and funding category recommendations.
The Dream Team plans must be reviewed and approved or modified by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Board of Directors on Sept. 23. The goal of the Young Clergy Initiative is to increase the number of young clergy in the UMC.
"We want the money to be fruitful and effective," the Rev. Trip Lowery, GBHEM's director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment, told the group.
One of the big pieces added to the grant application process was a suggestion from Casey Langley, youth ministry director at First UMC in Fort Worth, Texas.
"What if there is some sort of requirement that those applying have to name people who are praying for this new ministry? That would make it less institutional," Langley said.
Quincy Brown, vice president for Spiritual Life and Church Relations at LaGrange College, agreed, as did the rest of the Dream Team.
"What you are saying is spirit-filled," Brown said.
There was some discussion about whether $5,000 was too small a grant to make any kind of impact, but the Rev. Beth Ludlum, GBHEM's director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation, said she had seen students do great things with small amounts of money. Ludlum said she hopes to see grassroots proposals that result in partnerships.
Robin Minthorn, assistant professor in Educational Leadership and Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico and a member of GBHEM's Board of Directors, said the grants must be aimed at programs to engage students in campus ministry and other ministry that will convince them they have "a place in the church."
The Rev. Melissa Wiginton, vice president for Education Beyond the Walls at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said she had been struck by how many candidates for ordination in the UMC have had experience in ministry outside their local church  during campus ministry, high school, or even earlier.
The Rev. Brad Farrington, campus minister at Appalachian State University, said the projects need to show young adults that ordained ministry is "worth your life."
"They are rejecting a career path of creating good company people for The United Methodist Church. We have to really think big," Farrington said.
Dream Team members agreed that if the money approved by General Conference to focus efforts on encouraging young adults who wish to respond to the call to ordained ministry in the UMC is spent for programs aimed at "preventing the death of an institution" efforts will fail.
The plans laid out by the team must be approved by GBHEM's Board of Directors. Plans include a proposed timeline of grant applications being taken Oct. 1- Feb. 1, with grants awarded in and funds disbursed by March 15, 2014. GBHEM will monitor and evaluate funded projects from March 15 - Aug. 31, and grantees must report by September 2015 on the progress of their projects. The team also recommended that funds be distributed in two rounds, with a second deadline of June 1, 2014, for applications.
The team agreed that grants will be invited that:
  • prepare young people to hear God's call to ordained ministry
  • assist young people to respond to God's call
  • develop young people in spiritual and theological formation
  • nurture young clergy for lifelong transformational ministry.
Priorities to be considered by those applying are projects that will:
  • engage and empower young people
  • engender imagination, creativity, and risk/innovation
  • include diversity, especially ethnic and gender diversity
  • encourage cultural and systemic change
  • facilitate experiences connecting faith commitments and the needs of the world.
The team recommended grants be awarded in three categories: $5,000 to $20,000; $20,000 to $50,000; and $50,000 to $100,000.
The Dream Team conceded that some in the church expected the money to be spent on scholarships, but there was consensus among team members that spending money on scholarships would not lead to the real change the church needs to appeal to young people.
The group worked on the applications and also spent some time discussing who might apply for the grants and what wouldn't be funded. They agreed that students, young adults, annual conferences, Boards of Ordained Ministry, campus ministries, colleges, and seminaries were among those that might apply.
"I think what we want to do is invest in places that are fertile ground," said the Rev. Shonda Jones, associate dean of Admission and Student Services at Wake Forest University.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
To learn more about the Young Clergy Initiative, visit