A unique program for training ministers

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The pastoral residency program at Wilshire has become a nationally recognized model for excellence in clergy preparation. Wilshire identifies itself as a "teaching congregation," just as some hospitals are "teaching" hospitals with medical residents. The rigorous training afforded in seminaries and divinity schools focuses primarily on essential academic and biblical knowledge. What's missing is practical teaching about the work of the church.

Wilshire seeks to fill that gap by offering recent seminary or divinity school graduates two years to learn the ropes of local church ministry in a safe and healthy practicum. In the long term, we believe, this will extend the ministry of pastors and prevent early burnout among young clergy.

History of the program

Senior Pastor George Mason and his predecessor, Bruce McIver, first conceived the idea of a clergy training program, which was introduced in 2002. Serendipitously, the Lilly Endowment, based in Indianapolis, about the same time was nurturing similar ideas about the need for training young ministers. Soon after Wilshire's program began, we became one of the first congregations in America to receive a major grant from the Lilly Endowment for its Transitions to Ministry program.

With this enormous help, the program quickly expanded from one pastoral resident to four. Currently, the program is funded jointly by Lilly grants and by individual contributions to Wilshire's Pathways to Ministry Endowment. Four recent seminary or divinity school graduates serve at Wilshire, sets of two in two-year rotations. Pastoral residents have come to Wilshire from Duke Divinity School, Wake Forest University Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School, Truett Seminary at Baylor University, Brite Divinity School at TCU, the University of Chicago, Fuller Theological Seminary and Logsdon Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University.

What is a pastoral resident?

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Pastoral residents are ministerial staff members without portfolio at Wilshire. They're learning to be generalists in ministry as they gain experience in preaching, teaching, pastoral care, administration and congregational organization. Residents preach in morning worship at Wilshire about once a month, in addition to giving leadership to the monthly Sunday evening Evensong services and other special events. They teach regularly in adult Sunday School classes and gain firsthand experience working with youth and children in spiritual development. They learn how to lead a mission trip, how to baptize, how to celebrate the Lord's Supper, how to handle weddings and funerals, how to manage committees, how to promote stewardship and how to be the personal presence of Christ to congregants in times of need.

Pastoral residents also benefit from a nurturing community at Wilshire. Lay mentoring teams meet periodically and review the progress of the resident and the residency program. They offer important feedback to both the resident and program supervisor from the perspective of the pew. The lay team also exercises a ministry of hospitality, both as a group and individually, with the resident throughout the program. Faith partners support the resident primarily through prayer and regular communication. 

How to apply

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Recent seminary or divinity school graduates (or soon-to-be graduates) who have expressed a call to vocational ministry as preaching pastors are invited to apply for the pastoral residency program. Applications are received throughout the year, but should be submitted no later than Feb. 1 for consideration in the new class that begins in August of the same year. Residency terms run from August through July, for a total of two years.

To apply for the pastoral residency program, contact Geri McKenzie, Pathways administrator, at (214) 452-3159. You will be asked to submit a current resume and a one-page statement of call. Be sure to provide complete contact information, including name, physical address, email address, telephone numbers, as well as an indication of how you learned about the program. Residents receive competitive salaries and benefits packages, as these posts are full-time jobs, not internships.

How to support the residency program

The future of the pastoral residency program at Wilshire depends upon continuing contributions to the Pathways Endowment Fund, which is administered by the Baptist Foundation of Texas. This is an ideal place to direct memorial gifts and estate planning directives. To learn more, contact David Nabors at 214-452-3157. 

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2014-2015 current pastoral residents