A new program in New Castle Presbytery hopes to create space for new worshipping communities while addressing a growing problem — lack of employment opportunities for recent seminary graduates.

FIRST (Freeing the Imagination of the Recently Seminary Trained) offers part-time, one-year positions to recent seminary graduates who will start new worshipping communities. If the worshipping community is deemed a validated ministry by New Castle Presbytery, the graduate will be eligible for ordination.

“Let us be your launching pad,” said the Rev. Nate Phillips, a member of the FIRST Leadership team and pastor of Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Del. “We’re going to give you everything you need to succeed.”

In addition to a salary and benefits, the program will offer spiritual direction and accountability meetings, as well as possible housing and debt assistance.

Because the positions will only be part-time, pastors will need to find another source of income. Bi-vocational ministry is becoming increasingly common, and FIRST hopes to help its pastors find an additional job.

In its initial year, FIRST hopes to sponsor two organizing pastors, who would begin in August. The program is accepting applicants now.

In addition to a master’s of divinity degree, candidates should be able to make connections with a community, engage in social media and reach out to people not already involved in a church.

But the most important quality is passion, Phillips said.

“You’ve gotta have a heart for this,” he said, adding that applicants must feel a need to be involved in this type of ministry.

The term “recently seminary trained” is purposely ambiguous, Phillips said, although he envisions most applicants will have been out of seminary three years or less.

New Castle Presbytery offers a collegial environment that is open to new ideas, making it a great setting for new and innovative leaders. But the presbytery hopes to benefit from the program as well, Phillips said.

“We’re hoping to learn from whoever comes,” he said. “We’re not good at this. If we were, we would just do it ourselves.”

To learn more about FIRST and apply for a position, visit the program’s website.