‘Launching pad’ for organizing pastors

New Castle Presbytery looking for recent seminary grads to start new worshipping communities

February 20, 2013

Freeing the Imagination of the Recently Seminary Trained —New Castle Presbytery


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.

  1. I like this idea and hope they have success with it. However, my revision would be to offer the opportunity to any clergy person, regardless of their years out of seminary. Some people have gifts for new ministry development and some don't. I think the door should be wide open. And also that encouraging clergy to explore bivocational ministry is a wise move.

    by Gail Irwin

    March 3, 2013

  2. I applaud New Castle Presbytery for their vision in creating this program. Generally, I feel our body has been way too slow in the creation of new worshiping bodies as communities change and opportunities arise. But I seriously question if new seminary graduates are the best candidates for such ventures. And I seriously disagree with the previous comment regarding bivocational ministries: such seem to me to be the proper response to the reality in which so many congregations now find themselves. And I can not see the use of our denomination's limited financial resources to make positions pay full-time which are nowhere near the threshold of becoming self-supporting as prudent. A "tentmaking" ministry can be a beautiful thing and I believe we should be offering seminarians the training they need to succeed in such opportunities.

    by J.R Heckerman

    February 25, 2013

  3. This is a great idea, but it has GOT to be full-time. Bivocational ministry is almost always a cop out. As ministers, we give years our of life to train for our calling and even if we're only paid for part-time work, the actual job never is. Not to paint this with too broad a brush stroke, but are we really appreciating our ministers if we refuse to find ways to support their full-time work? If we can't find a way to fund them so that they could support a family? We are organized in Presbyteries and Synods. A congregation shouldn't have to do this alone.

    by Brooklynn Smith

    February 24, 2013

  4. Sounds like a great idea. It might be a little more inviting if you included something about helping the new pastor's family--Job for the spouse? Child care? FMJ

    by Miles Julian

    February 21, 2013