Empowering Young CBF Clergy to Thrive in Ministry
The CBF Fellows program assists young Baptists clergy who are in their "first-call" in making a healthy transition from seminary to congregational ministry. The goal of CBF Fellows is to offer these young Baptist ministers essential resources not just to guard against burnout or isolation, but to empower them to thrive as congregational ministers. A second and equally important goal is for CBF to support and engage each Fellow’s congregation during the cohort encouraging them as they discern the best way to nurture the minister that God has called to serve in their community.
CBF Fellows seeks to build upon the foundation laid during the crucial training years of seminary and divinity school to help congregational ministers connect the academic to the practical work of the church. As a two-year cohort, CBF Fellows are provided with practical resources through continuing education opportunities which consist of six face-to-face gatherings, peer learning & guidance in-between sessions, individual sessions with a trained coach, and learning experiences designed around on-going CBF events to allow for maximum exposure to CBF staff and resources. To increase the program's reach and effectiveness, congregations commit to providing a Minister Encouragement Team for their Fellow. This team provides regular encouragement and stability to the minister which helps to sustain her or him not only between Fellows Cohort gatherings but as a young Congregational minister.
The Priorities of CBF Fellows Include:
- Flourishing - CBF believes congregations thrive when their ministers thrive.
- Collaborating - CBF believes peer-learning is a marker of successful ministry. Collaboration promotes pastoral excellence and congregational health.
- Coaching - CBF believes executive coaching is a vital component to assist young ministers in navigating their own anxiety and stress related to congregational ministry.
- Wellbeing - CBF believes strong, healthy congregations are the cornerstone of the Fellowship. This includes ministers who are spiritually, physically, and emotionally working toward their own wellbeing.
Who are CBF Fellows?
CBF Fellows are clergy who are committed to life-long congregational ministry as their vocational calling. They are Christian clergy who have graduated or will graduate from an accredited seminary or divinity school within the past five years. They are individual members of CBF and/or members of a CBF partner congregation. They are people who are willing to learn from their peers sharing life together with them as they navigate the joys and sorrows of congregational ministry. CBF Fellows are also part of nurturing communities of faith that understand vocational ministry is a unique calling given by God - both to the person and to the congregation. Laity are essential to the wellbeing of ministers as they offer collaborative feedback and guidance so that both the minister and the congregation thrive in these early years together.
I believe CBF Fellows impact is largely relational. During the program, I changed jobs and became a parent. These changes and struggles should never be faced alone. Thankfully many of the other Fellows were experiencing the same types of moments and situations. Their friendship, support, questions, and encouragement helped me navigate being a minister in today’s world. I think one of the biggest vocational ministry questions they helped me to answer was “Can I still minister to youth if I work at a college and not a church?” They helped me see the answer was a resounding “Yes!” I am thankful for the learning that took place during those two years, and how it has created a network of friends I can rely on, who occasionally ask me to preach at their churches, and continually encourages me to develop and grow as a minister.
CBF Fellows was an integral part of my journey as a minister. The relationships formed in the first cohort are still a big part of my life today. Also, the fact that I was a business person prior to ministry, this program helped educate me beyond the seminary classroom.
CBF Fellows was one of the greatest joys of my early years in full-time ministry. The program gave me ways to analyze my behaviors and tendencies in ministry that still prove valuable in challenging or significant situations today. It gave me examples of what meaningful ministry can be, and how to live into healthy embodiments of it. And most importantly, it taught me the significance of a community of peers to process with, debrief with, and share life with. It taught me that nurturing and maintaining these relationships is vital to my health and success in ministry. I will forever be grateful for the foundation of healthy ministry that the CBF Fellows Program helped me to create!
When I entered the CBF Fellows program, I had no idea what impact it would have on my life and ministry. Reflecting on two years of close networking with other ministers, training that informed my vocation, and special events that have helped guide my spiritually formative journey I find myself a stronger follower of Christ, and calling, than I was before. Today, I am not serving in the same ministry position as when I began Fellows, having transitioned from congregational ministry to full-time collegiate ministry on college campuses in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. The decision to make this change was strengthened, and informed by, my time as a CBF Fellow. Had I not had the experiences of learning more about self-care, asset mapping, relationship dynamics, and the importance of surrounding oneself with strong support, I would not have been equipped to step into the new endeavor that I now find myself. I move forward, thanks to CBF Fellows, with the deeper knowledge that I am a minister whose calling comes from God and that I never walk this journey of life, and ministry, alone.
Through my experience in the CBF Fellows Program, I discerned the call to pastoral ministry. The Fellows program helped me develop the confidence for this next step in my ministerial journey. It also gave me a clearer picture of who I am as a minister – my unique strengths and areas of giftedness – and what practices, habits, and resources I need in order to best care for myself, my congregation, and my community.
The greatest takeaway from my experience with CBF Fellows was a cohort of supportive colleagues and friends in ministry with whom I hope to journey for many years to come. I’m also grateful for the support of the Fellows facilitators who continue to offer wisdom, encouragement, and valuable resources for continued learning and growth. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from someone in my CBF Fellows community in some way! Their friendship, listening ears, and constant encouragement will be gifts that sustain and support me in ministry for many years to come.
I began CBF Fellows after serving for two years in my first position post-seminary. I had been away from the classroom long enough to miss the support and encouragement I had from it, and “on the field” long enough to understand the depth of need for something similar. While the programmatic elements (educational materials, books, seminars, etc.) were invaluable, I gained the most from simply participating in the cohort model with other ministers in similar positions and life-situations. While it is impossible to physically meet with the cohort I was in the program with on a regular basis, we keep in touch through social media and continue to provide a source of encouragement and challenge to one another. As a result of this experience, I’ve been motivated to seek out a local group of ministers to meet regularly with, and this has been an immense source of joy in a job that sometimes has just as many or more “lows” as it does “highs.” The cohort model of the Fellows program was also instrumental in encouraging me to begin pursuing a D.min from Truett Seminary. One of the surprising outcomes from my Fellows experience is that it played a part in persuading me to continue serving in my current ministry role, instead of “moving up the ladder.” I’ve always admired ministry leaders that “stuck it out for the long haul,” but having the chance to visit with practitioners that have done this in various settings and to see their overall impact was inspiring and confirming of the ministry I’ve been called to: one of patience, presence, and persistence.
As a single-staff pastor, CBF Fellows provided me with a community of collaboration and support. Ministry can be lonely, so to journey with other ministers and be able to retreat to safe places of community and encouragement made all the difference in my personal journey as a minister. The professional development, community, and reflection provided the foundation for my ministry and my life as a minister.