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Program supports longevity of new clergy by networking them

Young pastors gain support through two national UCC programs

Lisa Horst Clark, pastor of spiritual formation at First Congregational UCC in Bellevue, brings some of her connections with the wider UCC with her as she starts in ministry in the Pacific Northwest.

Lisa Clark
Lisa Horst Clark is one of the young clergy participating in both the 2030 Clergy Network and the Next Generation Leadership Initiative: Target 2030.

She is a participant in both the 2030 Clergy Network and the Next Generation Leadership Initiative: Target 2030, programs designed to support young clergy in the United Church of Christ.

Mobilization and support of younger clergy has gained support over the last several years,” she pointed out.

 The most recent data is that four percent of clergy in the UCC are under the age of 40.  Echoing trends in other mainline denominations, the small numbers of younger clergy and the high burnout rates in the first few years of parish ministry have been cause for concern, Clark explained.  So within the last 10 years, two UCC programs have been launched to be proactive in supporting younger clergy.

“The church needs a diversity of gifts, both now and in the future. We need ways to support one another, to brainstorm together, to learn together in order to fulfill our call to leadership in the United Church of Christ,” she said.

Clark, who grew up in the UCC in San Jose, Calif., felt called to ministry while working with local youth groups during her undergraduate studies at Pomona College in Claremont. 

After graduating in 2005, she went to Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. She graduated in 2008 and served as associate minister for children and families at First Congregational Church in Guilford, Conn., until 2011, when she moved to Bellevue.

At Bellevue First Congregational, her ministry focuses on spiritual formation and in-reach ministries of education, membership, parish life and communication.

The 2030 Clergy Network, founded in 2005, is open to all ordained clergy in their 20’s and 30’s. 

According to their website, “the network began to create opportunities for fun, fellowship and mutual support,” she said. 

Over time, it has expanded its ministry to include clergy education and professional development.  

Recognizing the tools available as a part of the digital age, the 2030 Clergy Network has fostered an active Facebook community, which has become a regular source for clergy peers to discuss, brainstorm and share information.

The network decided to make t-shirts as a way to help people recognize the diversity of ordained leadership in the United Church of Christ.  The t-shirts read, “This is what clergy look like.”

 “As young clergy, we are geographically spread out.  It can be isolating,” Clark observed.  “To interact with peers in a similar stage of life and ministry is a remarkable gift.”

In January 2011, the United Church Board of Ministerial Assistance (UCBMA) launched the Next Generation Leadership Initiative: Target 2030, with the goal to develop transformative leaders. 

Clark is a part of the first class of the program, which will be accepting applications for the fourth class next spring.

The initiative is designed for clergy 35 years or younger within their first five years of parish ministry, and seeks to build commitment to long-term local church ministry through 10 years of continuing education and incentive funding for retirement.

The goal is to energize and sustain younger clergy with the belief that “healthy, catalytic pastors” create “healthy, vibrant congregations,” she said.

Through the first four years of the program, the class meets for two weeks a year for intensive sessions on topics ranging from family systems theory to adaptive leadership.

The next six years, the participants have more flexibility in their educational pursuits.

“The education components are helpful,” said Clark.  “It’s one thing to learn while in seminary and another thing to learn in the midst of ministry.”  

UCBMA has funded the program for the next 20 years, with 10 to 20 young clergy selected each year.  By program’s end in 2031, 150 to 200 clergy will have gone through the program and be empowered for ministry, she said. 

In reflecting on her experiences, Clark notes “I am grateful to be a participant in these programs, and thank the UCBMA and the 2030 Clergy Network National Planning Team for all the time and effort they have put into these programs. 

“In a time that could be difficult and isolating to be young clergy, I am heartened that our denomination is putting time, energy and resources into equipping young clergy with the support and relationships we need as the next generation of church leadership,” Clark commented.  “How wonderful to have so many people invested in supporting the present and future of the church, whatever that may look like”

Clark wants young people considering ministry to know these organizations are out here.

For information, call 425-454-5001 or email

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © September 2012




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