Young Clergy Initiative awards total of 75 grants, including three in North Georgia


By Nicole Burdakin and Sybil Davidson

After receiving 164 Young Clergy Initiative grant applications, the YCI has awarded approximately $5.5 million to 75 recipients. The grants were awarded to programs geared toward increasing the number of young clergy in The United Methodist Church and supporting the young clergy already serving in the denomination.

Among those 75 were three grants in the North Georgia Conference totaling nearly $300,000.
  • Gammon Theological Seminary, GA – $100,000.00
    Applicant’s description of project:
    “The Gammon Pathways Program is designed to further recruit, equip, and train young African American and Ethnic clergy leaders for the United Methodist Church.”
  • Youth Theological Initiative, GA – $100,000.00
    Applicant’s description of project:
    “To partner with UMC churches to recruit youth to attend YTI, in order to bring YTI’s successes in youth leadership development directly to the denomination.”
  • North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church – Ministerial Services –$82,500.00
    Applicant’s description of project:
    “Develop and implement an intentional process and culture of call across NGUMC that identifies, equips, and nurtures racial-ethnic young people for transformational ordained ministry.”

The funds granted to the North Georgia Conference will be used by the newly formed office of Coordinator of Vocational Discernment. Rev. Tonya Lawrence who was appointed to this position in June is collaborating with Russell Davis, Phil Schroeder, Jasmine Smothers, Karen Kagiyama, and Jane Brooks on efforts to reach young people as early as elementary school and to provide a framework for churches to use to support a culture of call within each age group in their congregation.  

There are currently very few racial-ethnic young clergy in process for ordination in North Georgia. Lawrence will work with Congregational Development, Glisson's ELI program and local churches to address this alarming trend. 

Grants awarded by YCI ranged in size from $100,000 to $5,000. While there is a primary recipient for each grant, all of the applicants formed partnerships with churches, annual conferences, other institutions or individuals to work on the projects.

Kim Ingram, a member of the YCI Selection Committee, said of the diversity among applicants, “We got grant requests from a number of different kinds of sources—local churches, districts, campus ministries, conferences, non-profits, seminaries, United Methodist [related] colleges, foundations, and camps.”

“There were also some exciting partnerships that were going to happen as a result [of the YCI grants awarded,] through campus ministries and United Methodist [related] colleges, between churches and campus ministries, between seminaries and conferences, [and] between a seminary and a college,” Ingram said. “We’re excited about people working together.”

As a result of reading through applications, the board is working to partner people from different parts of the country who are trying to do similar things so that they will be in conversation with one another.

The goal of the grant program is to support good ideas from all levels of the church about how to prepare young people to hear God’s call to ordained ministry, assist young people in responding to God’s call to ordained ministry, develop young people in spiritual and theological formation, and nurture young clergy for lifelong transformational ministry.

“Simulating innovation and creativity is difficult,” Mills said of the selection process. “We really need to look at and balance the benefits and challenges of an approach that is grassroots. This [approach] was more grassroots in that the call went out as a general call versus a more targeted effort.”

General Conference 2012 created the $7 million fund to address the need for young clergy in the UMC. While $7 million was approved, the amount disbursed was about $5.5 million, since the actual funds are dependent on payments to the World Service apportionment fund.

See the full list of grants, or learn more about the Young Clergy Initiative on

Davidson is conference communicator for the North Georgia Conference. Burdakin is editorial and production assistant, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. See the original story at: