Board approves four GBHEM-initiated proposals for young clergy

By Vicki Brown*

The Rev. Beth Ludlum talks about Project Transformation's expansion plans. Photos by Vicki Brown

The Rev. Beth Ludlum talks about Project Transformation’s expansion plans. Photos by Vicki Brown

A Sunday focused on call and $600,000 to expand Project Transformation were among four proposals approved by the directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry during the March meeting in Mutare, Zimbabwe.  The proposals are aimed at increasing the number of young clergy in The United Methodist Church.

The four proposals approved by the Board of Directors were initiated by staff and were in addition to 91 completed applications for grants from the $7 million Young Clergy Initiative. The 91 applications submitted for the fund created by the 2012 General Conference are still being reviewed by a team of staff and members of the Board of Directors. Those awards will be announced May 2. The deadline for the second round of applications is July 2, 2014.

“If we funded every request, $5.5 million would be given out for the first round,” said the Rev. Trip Lowery, GBHEM’s director of Young Adult Ministry Discernment and Enlistment. Lowery said applications were received from 23 different states and 27 requests were for $100,000.

The expectation is that about $1.5 million will be disbursed each year.

After reviewing the 91 completed applications, the staff also developed GBHEM-initiated grants for projects that staff viewed as having the potential to make a big difference. Four of those proposals were approved by the directors:

  • Providing $600,000 in funding to help with a national expansion of Project Transformation, a program that attracts college student leaders and engages them in ministry with unserved communities and in revitalizing struggling inner-city churches.
  • Creating a church-wide Sunday concentrating on call, observed on Pentecost Sunday. Suggestions and a liturgical rationale would be offered if a church wanted to celebrate this Sunday at another time. There would be no cost potentially, but up to $18,000 was approved for producing resources if needed. One option would be to partner with an annual conference that applied for a grant to create these resources.
  • Response to call opportunities – personalized response cards, videos of call stories, liturgy resources and suggestions. Resources would be produced by GBHEM staff and distributed online or electronically.
  • Two options for a gap year program were approved. The first would support 200 United Methodist recent college graduates participating in existing programs such as Teach for America or AmeriCorps by giving them opportunities to explore faith and ministry and connect to the church as they serve. This had a cost of $40,000 the first year and $30,000 the second year. The second gap year option would help interested seminaries establish intentional communities for service year participants, including theological and ministry exploration, at a cost of $10,000 to $20,000.

The board also discussed options for creating a chaplaincy corps to train, send and support teams of recent college graduates or seminarians to start new ministries on college campuses that are not served by the UMC through a campus ministry or chaplaincy, but ultimately rejected those proposals.

The cost of the chaplaincy corps would have been $81,500 for two years for the initial site and $67,100 for two years for each additional site, said the Rev. Beth Ludlum, GHBEM’s director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation.

The Rev. Amy Gearhart said she wanted to resist the undertow of using the YCI grant money in any way that is not really innovative.

There was some discussion about whether to provide such a large grant to Project Transformation.

“A dozen annual conferences are asking to start Project Transformation in their conference,” Ludlum said. The project started in Dallas in 1998, and more than 60 percent of the college students who worked with Project Transformation have gone on to do some sort of ministry or service. More than half are employed by the UMC.

Project Transformation had presented a detailed proposal for the expansion and requested $1.2 million, with matching funds of $2.5 million to be raised. The board approved a grant of $600,000.

Lowery said there were a few grant requests to develop resources for a Sunday focused on call and that GBHEM staff could potentially partner with those conferences to develop the resources.

The Rev. Dr. Kim Cape said officials at the UMC Connectional Table were enthusiastic about a church-wide Sunday focused on call and would like to see an offering taken up that the conferences could use to support their students in education for ministry.

Several board members expressed concern that care should be taken to ensure the resources developed are inclusive and that the team developing resources is racially and ethnically diverse.

Bishop James Dorff, president of GHBEM’s Board of Directors, noted that while GBHEM is attempting to use the Young Clergy funds to encourage new opportunities, “We should realize that some of it is going to fall on hard ground and won’t come up.”

In other action, directors approved Dr. Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, as a new member of the Board of Directors. She replaces Jodi Cataldo, who stepped down when she took a job at another UMC general agency, the General Board of Discipleship.

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

General Board of Higher Education & Ministry

GBHEM is the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church. The work of the Board is preparing global leaders for the church and the world. Every elder, deacon, and licensed local pastor has benefited from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults have found help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their life through our leadership and discernment programs, and through values-centered higher education and collegiate ministries at the 106 UM-related schools, colleges, and universities. United Methodist leaders — both lay and clergy — have benefited from GBHEM’s loans and scholarships programs.

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