Plan, Grants to Encourage Young Clergy

Plan, Grants to Encourage Young Clergy



GBHEM Directors Approve Dream Team Plan for Young Clergy Initiative

Plans drafted by Young Clergy Initiative Dream Team were approved by GBHEM’s Board of Directors on Monday. 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.

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a plan to disburse funds from the $7 million Young Clergy Initiative to innovative projects of all sizes that could attract young people to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church.

On Monday, Board members made suggestions for improving language in the grant application, particularly to state clearly that applicants are encouraged to form partnerships for projects and also to seek matching funds from other sources. The special called meeting was held through a telephone conference call.

“We want to leave as wide a door as we can for applicants because we want a lot of creativity. This needs to be seed money that is used with matching funds in creative approaches,” said Bishop James Dorff, episcopal leader of the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Annual Conferences and president of GBHEM.

The Dream Team replaced categories and criteria for grants with purpose and priority statements that team members believed would be more accessible, especially to applicants who do not regularly apply for grants. This was done after Board members expressed concern in August that categories were too complex and inaccessible.

The Dream Team, a group of 12 young clergy, campus ministers, pastors, youth ministers, annual conference staff, 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 grants, and funding category recommendations. It was those plans that GBHEM’s directors reviewed and approved on Monday.

The goal of the Young Clergy Initiative, approved by General Conference 2012, is to increase the number of young clergy in the UMC.

Board member Ted Brown, president of Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., suggested that the application should place a greater emphasis on partnership projects. Other board members agreed.

Amy Gearhart, senior pastor of Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, Mo., also suggested asking applicants how they will tell the church about their project.

“They are the folks that are passionate, and they need to tell the story,” Gearhart said.

Board members discussed again the expectation of some in the UMC that the money would be spent for scholarships, but agreed with the Dream Team’s assessment that giving out scholarships to individuals would not result in the systemic change that is needed to create a culture of call that will encourage young people to go into ordained ministry in the UMC.

The timeline calls for online grant applications to be available in late October through GBHEM’s website, with a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting a project proposal. A second round of grant applications will be accepted by June 1, 2014. GBHEM will monitor and evaluate funded projects through completion.

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 to ordained ministry
  • develop young people in spiritual and theological formation
  • nurture young clergy for lifelong transformational ministry.


Applicants should consider these priorities:

  • engaging and empowering young people
  • engendering imagination, creativity, and risk/innovation
  • including diversity, especially ethnic and gender diversity
  • encouraging cultural and systemic change
  • facilitating experiences connecting faith commitments and the needs of the world
  • including matching funds and/or creative partnerships.

Grants will be considered competitively in three categories: $5,000 to $20,000; $20,000 to $50,000; and $50,000 to $100,000.

*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