Overview of the Initiative In January 2021, Lilly Endowment Inc. launched its three-phase Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative designed to "help theological schools strengthen and sustain
their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches." Phase One consisted of nine-month planning grants of up to $50,000 to 234 ATS member schools to help
them explore challenges and opportunities they wished to pursue.
Phase Two of the Pathways Initiative was launched in January 2022, consisting of five-year grants of up to $1 million awarded to 84 ATS member schools to help them
prioritize and respond to their most pressing challenges as they work to prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future. In June 2022, the Endowment
approved grants to 21 additional ATS schools for Phase Two.
In the competitive, final phase of the Pathways Initiative, the Endowment approved five-year, multimillion-dollar grants to 16 ATS member schools in June 2022 and in
September 2022. These grants are to fund large-scale, collaborative projects among Phase Three schools, along with their partners, to strengthen their capacities to prepare and support
pastors and lay ministers as well as to work toward offering sustainable models or strategies that—if effective—could be adopted by other schools.
Read more about the Endowment's Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.
The ATS Coordination Program
In December 2021, ATS received a five-year grant from the Endowment to oversee the coordination program for Phase Two of the Endowment's Pathways for
Tomorrow Initiative. In September 2022, the Endowment awarded ATS a five-year supplemental
grant to further assist the Phase Two expansion to 105 schools, to support the Phase Three partnerships, to extend resource programming for Phase Two and Phase Three schools, and to
increase funding to make learnings from Pathways grantees available to the wider ATS membership. The coordination program will provide resources, research, support, and a learning
community for the grantees focused on innovation, collaboration, and adaptive learning. Activities will include:
• webinars and team gatherings aimed at strengthening grantees’ projects,
• peer learning communities centered on various challenges and opportunities being
addressed by the grantees,
• annual research projects to support the work of the grantees,
• mentors and coaches for cohorts of senior leaders as they lead their organizations through
• support for project leaders—including the onboarding of new personnel,
• an advisory committee to aid in the design of peer groups and research projects, and
• a virtual resource center to make learning and research available among ATS, its member
schools, collaborating organizations, and theological education researchers.
Deasy also serves on the research team at ATS. Before shifting her focus to initiatives in 2022, she also oversaw the management, collection, and interpretation of data from the Entering Student, Graduating Student, and Alum Questionnaires for ATS. Her quantitative research focuses on the vocational trajectories of graduate theological students including multi-vocational ministry and the graduate workforce as well as on educational debt in ATS member schools. Qualitative projects have included Black student debt, assessing spiritual and personal formation, and women in leadership in theological education.
Deasy served for seven years as the dean of students and community life at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church, she has also served on staff at congregations in Duluth, Minnesota, and Mercer Island, Washington, and came to ATS from Sojourner Covenant Church in Evanston, Illinois, where she served as lead pastor for four years.
Deasy graduated from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary with a PhD in congregational studies with an emphasis in congregational leadership and contextual theologies.
Christopher M. The (pronounced ‘tay’) equips ATS member schools to improve and enhance their educational missions by gathering, analyzing, and disseminating insights from student data. As director of student research and initiative management, he also oversees the virtual infrastructure for ATS grant-funded initiatives and liaises with coordination program personnel for the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative of the Lilly Endowment Inc. He came to ATS in 2017, having served multivocational roles in student services (Fuller Theological Seminary, Azusa Pacific University) and student/young adult ministry at an Indonesian American congregation in the American Baptist tradition. Prior to 2022, he served the ATS Commission on Accrediting as director of commission information services.
A former English Ministry pastor at two Asian American churches in Southern California, The was raised in a Chinese-Indonesian immigrant congregation in the Reformed tradition and later ordained to ministry by a Chinese/Taiwanese church in the Pentecostal tradition. A selected participant in the 2014 Summit for Future Theological Educators of Color and Summit on Christian Leadership (Forum for Theological Exploration), he was named a 2016 fellow of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and represents the Religious Liberty Council on the BJC board of directors. He has published refereed articles and contributed to book chapters on resourcing immigrant churches for civic engagement, leveraging evaluative principles for character formation in theological education, understanding the unique mentorship needs of doctoral students of color, and surveying the placement of diasporic Indonesian communities among world Christianities. His dissertation involved qualitative research on the congregational formation of Indonesian American emerging adults at two Los Angeles-area churches.
A co-editor and contributing author for the anthology Kristianitas-Kristianitas di Asia Tenggara (Christianities in Southeast Asia, 2022), The also serves on the editorial board for the SINTA-accredited Indonesian Journal of Theology. He holds BA (music) and MA (religion) degrees from Azusa Pacific University, and MDiv and PhD (theology) degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Amanda Leavitt joined the ATS staff in 2022 as program assistant for initiatives. She supports the work of the institutional initiatives ATS administers on behalf of the membership, which includes the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.
A certified coach through the National Association for Youth Ministry, Leavitt most recently served as director of next generation ministry at Venice Presbyterian Church in McDonald, Pennsylvania, and as director of youth ministry at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. She earned a bachelor of science degree in biblical studies with a concentration in youth ministry from Cairn University.