About five years after its founding, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s small church residency program continues to grow — with a few changes.
Established in 2009 with the name For Such a Time as This, the program is now called the Small Church Residency Program. The goal of the program — to pair small, underserved congregations in rural, small town and urban settings with recent seminary graduates for a two-year pastoral-residency relationship, during which they are supported and guided by a cluster of pastor-mentors — remains the same.
“The name For Such a Time as This communicated the timeliness and urgency of the program, but gave no information as to what the program is actually about,” Charles Wiley, associate director of the Office of Theology, Worship and Education, said in a press release. “Therefore, we have renamed it the Small Church Residency Program with the tagline ‘Growing Leaders, Growing Churches For Such a Time as This.’ We hope this name change will better communicate the program’s focus.”
The application process has also changed, with candidates and congregations now simply indicating their interest in the program on their personal and ministry information forms on the Church Leadership Connection, the online matching and referral system for the PC(USA).
Since the application change in late September, the Small Church Residency Program has seen an increased interest from both candidates and presbyteries, said the Rev. Cynthia Cushman, coordinator for the program.
The change has allowed for more accessibility, Cushman said. Viewing forms on the Church Leadership Connection allows candidates to see the locations of potential calls and allows presbyteries to express interest during any time of the year, rather than waiting for set timeframes.
Since the program’s inception, 31 recent seminary graduates have served 37 congregations in 13 presbyteries.
Participating congregations receive a two-year designated pastor (whose call is renewable after the two years if all parties are agreeable), a small salary support grant ($4,000 for each year of the residency) and an opportunity to be a teaching congregation for a new pastor who is equipped to help the church re-engage with the community and explore new avenues of ministry. The cost of the salary support grant is split between the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the participating presbytery.