Union Presbyterian Seminary awarded grant to help starting pastors hone their preaching

A $50,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. is designed to nurture and sustain preachers

by Union Presbyterian Seminary | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez via Unsplash

RICHMOND, Virginia — Union Presbyterian Seminary has been awarded a $50,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to plan and develop a program that focuses on nurturing and sustaining the preaching of pastors who are in the first seven years of their preaching ministries after graduation.

“We know that those who are early in their congregational ministries face a multitude of challenges and many do not last in congregational ministry beyond their first seven years. While we can’t address every ministry challenge, this grant will help us discern how we might come alongside early career ministers, developing opportunities to nurture their preaching in ways that account for 21st century contexts,” said the Rev. Dr. Rich Voelz, Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

The Rev. Dr. Rich Voelz

Lilly Endowment made the grant through its Compelling Preaching Initiative, which is supporting select organizations that are cultivating practices among aspiring and active preachers that can help them to proclaim the gospel to diverse audiences in more engaging and effective ways.

With its grant, Union will survey early career preachers in order to develop a program focused on supporting four key areas: preaching and significant social issues, preaching and diverse listeners, preaching and digital technology, and mentoring and feedback for preachers. Additionally, Union will create an invested network of judicatory and denominational leaders, and pastors in multi-staff congregations who champion and care for early career preachers.

The Rev. Dr. Brian Blount

“In a time when the church faces challenges of congregational change and decline, increasing cultural polarization, the lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the demonstrable influence of digital technology and its relationship to worship, new ministers require nurture and support as they craft pastoral and prophetic messages for congregation and community. The Compelling Preaching Initiative aims to offer precisely that assistance,” said the Rev. Dr. Brian Blount, the seminary’s president. “Union Presbyterian Seminary is excited to partner in this endeavor that will cultivate practices among aspiring and active preachers that will help them proclaim the gospel to diverse audiences in more engaging and effective ways.”


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