In January 2021, Lilly Endowment Inc. launched a three-phase initiative, “Pathways for
Tomorrow,” designed to "help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches." In this
competitive third and final phase of the Pathways initiative, the Endowment funded large-scale, collaborative projects. Designed to strengthen their capacities to prepare
and support pastors and lay ministers, and work toward offering sustainable models or strategies that—if effective—could be adopted by other schools. The Endowment also made
grants to ATS and the In Trust Center for Theological Schools to provide resources to Pathways grantees and to convene them in
a learning community to encourage innovation and collaboration.
The 16 ATS member schools who received Phase 3 grants were announced in
September 2022. Learn more about them and their projects below.
Title:CHANGE (Configuring Higher Education Administration for Next Generation Excellence)
Amount: $5 million
Partners: There are seven partners. The group is recruiting more members.
The project: AMBS and its partners have an ambitious proposal to create a nonprofit organization that would run administrative services for theological schools. Areas
for initial exploration include financial aid, registrar, human resources, IT, library services, Title IX, and business office support. Schools would subscribe to the services, and the
initiative intends that, if it meets expectations, it could reduce the costs of early adopters by 50% and 45% for those who join later.
Why it’s important: The initiative is focused on scaling services, thus freeing up significant portions of school budgets. The result could ease financial
pressures and redirect money to help further a school’s mission.
Title:Ministry Leaders for Tomorrow Amount: $5 million
Partners: Denomination and church-planting network
The project: Seeking to develop more ministers, the project is working with denomination officials in the Assemblies of God to identify and encourage high school and
college students who feel called into ministry and help them discern and fulfill their calling. The plan includes the creation of a summer camp to help students discern a calling and would
help bring students both to and through an undergraduate degree to a seminary degree. It would also create opportunities for employment, including in church planting.
Why it’s important: The proposal outlines a strong partnership among the school, its denomination, and denominational agencies, and it would create a pathway
toward employment for students. Such a model could be a good roadmap for others.
Title:Transformational Training Pathways for Hispanic Leaders Amount: $4,999,904
Partners: Latin American Bible Institute and Life Pacific University
The project: The project brings together three schools with differing missions and accreditations to create a unified program that will offer students access to theological
education, from a certificate to a doctorate, all in Spanish. It will develop (not translate) a contextual curriculum in Spanish and also provides coaching and support for students.
Why it’s important: The project creates entry points for people of any educational background in Spanish, while providing support. It also should create strong bonds
among three schools that serve distinct student groups.
Amount: $5 million
Partners: AETH (La Asociación para la Educación Teológical Hispaña) and others
The project: Candler and its partners are reaching out in a number of ways to make ministerial education more accessible, including through a new school of ministry and
certificate-level education for ministerial credentials in denominations that don’t require a degree. As well, a new center will help support Bible institutes and certificate programs.
AETH will also provide affiliated Bible institutes with increased library access. And, there’s the creation of a summer institute for global Charismatic and Pentecostal studies.
Why it’s important: From providing digital library access to helping support Bible institutes, the proposal is a response to previous Pathways work on the diversity of
theological education. It should bolster those in non-credentialed programs while also providing a way to seminary education for several groups that might not otherwise have access.
Title:Navigating the Shift: A Network Model for Theological Education
Partners: Eden has more than a dozen partners.
The project: The project will create a network of progressive schools, undergraduate schools, and ecclesial judicatories. The network will increase the breadth of theological
education and take advantage of distance and contextual education programs.
Why it’s important: The network will create new capacity for the schools through course and faculty sharing and will increase demand for and access to theological
education for students in undergraduate programs and for those seeking ministerial authorization through their ecclesial bodies.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota | Evangelical Denominational
HC: 872, Faculty FTE: 16
Title:Working Together in the Vineyard: Expanding Kairos University and Extending the Kairos Project to Underserved Groups
Amount: $5 million
Partners: Multiple schools, including those schools that formed Kairos University
The project: Sioux Falls Seminary has innovated and experimented with competency based theological education for several years and formed Kairos University with several other
schools. The new project will help integrate the schools that formed Kairos and build out systems, while inviting others into the effort to equip more pastoral leaders.
Why it’s important: Kairos’ leadership has always been willing to work with others and this will expand that, not only helping build out its distributed system of
collaboration but also offering other schools a way to consider partnering, innovating, and exploring.
Title:Canadian Learning Community for Decolonization and Innovation in Theological Education Amount: $5 million
Partners: Acadia Divinity College, Ambrose Seminary, and Tyndale Seminary
The project: Focused on decolonizing theological education in Canada, the proposal will create an inter-institutional learning community that crosses many denominational lines and
promises a robust effort to develop curriculum and pedagogies to address decolonization, contextualization, and indigenization including addressing the needs of diasporic ethnic communities.
It plans to include churches and pastors in discussion and offers research and other substantial steps to implement and track progress.
Why it’s important: This initiative is poised to not only help theological schools in Canada make thoughtful changes to address a difficult issue, but it could also
demonstrate how others can approach similar work in their own contexts. In a time of disruption in theological higher education, the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative is providing
schools the opportunity to experiment and create new ways forward.
Title:Seminary Now 3.0 Amount: $4,999,792
Partners: Starting with four ATS-accredited schools
The project:Seminary Now is a subscription-based, streaming platform that offers church leaders video courses. This proposal would expand that with for-credit
courses for pre-seminary students and build out the infrastructure in the program. It would create a pipeline from people taking exploratory courses to a seminary degree.
Why it’s important: The initiative creates a funnel for students to go from not-for-credit courses to the seminary, and it provides a strong push to educate the church.
Title:Ignite: A New Educational Ecosystem for Diverse Christian Leaders Amount: $5 million
Partners: Several schools (including unaccredited schools), networks, and congregations
The project:Ignite has several ways to create entry points and help students, including a plan for affordability, a focus on people of color, and a new learning
platform that will open doors to a variety of students. The platform will have an affordable membership plan to allow wide access. The project also includes a “stackable”
curriculum for the master’s degrees that is expected to open up access and affordability.
Why it’s important: The use of a variety of tools, including creating a new platform, shows a holistic view of how students may access theological education. The
different levels of education also provide multiple entry points.
Title:Tentmakers for Today’s Church: Forming Community Pastors for Congregational Flourishing Amount: $5 million
Partners: Baptist Health and Sankofa CPE Center
The project: The initiative will develop new MDiv tracks for Black and Hispanic pastors who are multivocational, providing contextual education for ministry in the community,
including Clinical Pastoral Education. The initiative also will provide support for students who are unable to leave their jobs, and the proposal expects to be self-sustaining after five
Why it’s important: The initiative offers ways for students to thrive in ministry contexts as multivocational leaders. It also includes the potential for expansion in
south Florida, offering a model for other programs elsewhere.
Title:Sustained Encuentro: Accompanying One Another on the Way Amount: $5 million
Partners: Mexican American Catholic College (MACC)
The project: The plan aspires to create new leaders, particularly for rural churches, by building partnerships with rural dioceses, parishes, and organizations. The initiative will
offer adapted degree and certificate-level courses to train people studying for diaconal and lay ecclesial through remote learning. Spanish-language courses will be available, and Saint
John’s and MACC will offer joint courses and immersion programs as part of ministry formation and leadership training.
Why it’s important: The initiative focuses on growing leaders and a dedication to a renewal of ministry in rural America, where economic and demographic shifts have led
to major changes in ministry and parish life.
Title:The Andrews Center for Community Change
Amount: $5 million
Partners: Health and community service networks, as well as ministry networks
The project: The seminary and its partners will create the Andrews Center for Community Change at Andrews University, which will train ministers to better engage with their
communities in community development projects. These projects will address physical, mental, economic, and social needs. Over the course of the grant, the initiative will take on up to 280
churches to provide training, mentoring, and support to identify specific issues and create ways to engage people around them.
Why it’s important: The project provides significant ways for the school to help pastors and churches with issues that have often been difficult for churches to tackle.
This program places an emphasis on creating empathy in ministers and a contextual understanding of ministry. It promises an innovative approach for church leaders to find new ways into their
Title:Taking Off the Roof: Cultivating Collaboration and Ministerial Ingenuity Amount: $5 million
Partners: Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, New York Theological Seminary, and several colleges and nonprofit organizations
The project: The initiative aims to create collaborative models for managing campus operations, promoting student success, expanding academic opportunities, and forging technology
innovation. It includes partnerships with other small, independent theological schools as well as area colleges and nonprofit organizations. And there’s the creation of a design
thinking-driven technology lab that will bring together theological schools, art and design experts, faith-based social justice organizations, and pastoral leaders.
Why it’s important: The proposal widens the scope of partnerships and collaborations that could serve as a model for other schools.
Title:Haciendo Caminos: Theological Education for New Generations of US Latino/a Catholics
Partners: Boston College and 16 other Catholic institutions of higher education
The project: The initiative will create more pathways to theological education and spiritual formation for US-born Hispanics in the Catholic Church and develop new pastoral leaders
for the church. The initiative will fund fellowships, summits to help students discern a call to ministry, and symposia to provide students with formation. There is also work to expand
schools’ networks with church leaders and a study to assess best practices. The initiative provides a holistic approach toward recruiting and nurturing students.
Why it’s important: Given the size and scope of the plan, there’s great potential for the Roman Catholic Church to form and educate a new generation of leaders.
Schools are using the grants to give more people a theological education, create new leaders in the church, try new methods of teaching, and create a brighter future.
Title: Cor Iuxta Meum (After My Own Heart) Project Amount: $4,999,886
Partners: Five seminaries and denominational organizations
The project: The initiative is focused on formation and plans to offer simulation training for those in ordained and lay leadership tracks, based on the simulated models used in
medical training. The campus will build a simulation lab that will help prepare students for ministry, creating real-life situations and creating more holistic ministers. It also will allow
ongoing ministry training.
Why it’s important: This type of pedagogy, effective in other fields, is poised to be a model for other schools that are looking at introducing a pedagogy that
incorporates affectivity while increasing practical and skills-based training.
Amount: $5 million
Partners: Perkins School of Theology Southern Methodist University, Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, and denominational entities
The project: The initiative will create new ways to bring students into ordained ministry through alternative education plans, including certificate programs. It calls for work with
the United Methodist Church (UMC) and other seminaries aligned with the UMC to strengthen education offerings for ministers. The credentialing programs could serve as entryways into
master’s degree programs.
Why it’s important: This project offers a strong partnership between schools affiliated with the UMC, which could help credentialing. It also includes the development
of a business model for sustainability. And, it will provide “proofs of concept” that can serve as case study and models for others.
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.
2023 Pathways Coordination Event November 6 (Phase 3 only), November
7–8 (all grantees)
Marriott Indianapolis Downtown
Details/registration coming soon!