Changes to FTE’s Fellowship Programs | Forum for Theological Exploration

Changes to FTE’s Fellowship Programs

By: Stephen Lewis
September 27, 2013

In my last announcement, I shared that FTE will adapt and shift from primarily being a fellowship supporting organization to a leadership incubator. Let me say more about why a leadership incubator and what its implications are for FTE’s fellowship programs.

Incubators are well known in other sectors and industries. They are designed to support the growth and development of the next generation of organizations and their leaders. The value that incubators offer is organizational resources and support, and a network of contacts. Studies have shown that new and emerging organizations and their leaders are more likely to succeed as a result of their participation in incubators.

We must also find new ways to help Millennial Christians see the church and academy as viable places where they can lead, teach and make a difference with their lives.

This concept is an instructive organizational framework for FTE and its work with the next generation of leaders and church institutions that support them. As a leadership incubator in service to the church and the academy, FTE recognizes that it can no longer work exclusively with young adults and graduate students. Instead, we must also focus on working with institutions that teach, support and call the next generation. We will develop strategies to attend to the growth and development of young leaders as well as church and theological institutions.

But the needs of young leaders and the context for FTE’s work have changed significantly since FTE awarded its first fellowships in 1954. We have learned:

  • More young leaders as early as high school and college are exploring theology and vocation prior to seminary and looking for opportunities to explore God’s call.
  • They want to make a difference in the world but don’t see the church and academy as viable places to make a difference.
  • Seminarians are increasingly becoming unsure about pursuing pastoral ministry and theological scholarship amid rising student debt, financially strained institutions and a stressed job market.
  • Among a diverse population of young adult leaders exploring Christian ministry, fellowships for seminarians support a small, discrete number of people.

To be good stewards of the resources that prepare aspiring Christian leaders, FTE needs to change, too. We will continue to:

  • Offer fellowships support for doctoral students—but we will expand our support beyond awarding fellowships.
  • Cultivate young leaders for ministry—but we will discontinue offering fellowship support for seminarians.

FTE’s new strategic direction and leadership incubator role suggests that we must help young leaders think creatively and flexibly in the midst of a changing church and economy. We must also find new ways to help Millennial Christians see the church and academy as viable places where they can lead, teach and make a difference with their lives.

To do this, we will invest more in ministry exploration, mentoring, leadership development, resources for institutions, and partnerships and forums where diverse networks of leaders can inspire a new generation to shape the church’s future. I’m excited about FTE’s new focus and believe these adaptive changes will build on FTE’s rich legacy.

Check back with us next month to hear exciting news and updates to FTE’s doctoral program.

Tags...: Inside FTE

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