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About this affiliate

The FTE website is for future church leaders, those who teach them and the congregations and communities who call them. FTE is an ecumenical nonprofit advocate for excellence and diversity in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship. It supports the next generation of leaders among pastors, educators and scholars, providing fellowships and a network of support for gifted young people from all denominations and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

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Forum for Theological Exploration

The Forum for Theological Exploration is an ecumenical nonprofit advocate for excellence and diversity in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship. It supports the next generation of leaders among pastors, educators and scholars, providing fellowships and a network of support for gifted young people from all denominations and racial/ethnic backgrounds. The Forum is also a resource for educational and faith communities, offering programs that engage them in encouraging talented young leaders to explore vocations in ministry and teaching. Since 1954, FTE has awarded more than 6,000 fellowships.

The Forum was created by leading educators, clergy and philanthropists to help ensure that highly gifted students continue to choose ministry as a profession and to improve diversity among faculty in theological education. Today, FTE provides $1.5 million annually in fellowships and a network of support for undergraduates, seminary students and doctoral students preparing to serve congregations, communities and campuses. FTE's Calling Congregations initiative engages and equips churches and other organizations to notice, name and nurture young leaders as they discern God's call in their lives.

Programs, Grants and Other Initiatives

The church and world need gifted and diverse young leaders who have the intellect and integrity to serve the communities who need them. Fewer than 7 percent of clergy in most denominations today are under age 35, signaling a need for leadership development. FTE offers fellowships and a network of support to gifted undergraduate and seminary students each year who are exploring or preparing for ministry.

Theological programs for high school students  provide a meeting place for young people wishing to explore questions about God, faith and ministry in the world. FTE also offers $1,500 grants to up to 10 recipients to develop ministry exploration and mentoring projects, and leadership discernment events for young adults  interested in exploring their purpose and call.

Theological institution partners -  FTE collaborates with academic institutions and related organizations to identify and support historically underrepresented graduate students to lead in the church, academy and broader society as the next generation of theological educators.

Congregational and church-related institutions  A partnership with congregations and church bodies to support young leaders as they serve the common good, strive for justice, share the Gospel and explore what God is calling them to do and be in the world.  Congregational partners offer affordable housing, invite young adult volunteers to join an intentional community of peers and provide intentional theological exploration of vocation.

Campus ministries - FTE coordinates an initiative to encourage campus ministries to play a prominent role in cultivating Christian leaders and connecting with young adults in their exploration of vocation. These opportunities also give campus ministries the space to strengthen their own capacities to help students discover their call and deepen their commitments to their Christian communities.

New pastors - Transition-into-Ministry (TiM) is a Lilly Endowment program that provides leadership development resources for pastors during their first two years of ministry. Numerous programs have helped more than 1,000 new pastors as they transition into a life of ministry.

Faith-based volunteer organizations - The Volunteers Exploring Vocation (VEV) network supports young adults who come from diverse backgrounds to explore the relationship between faith and work during a year of service. FTE partners and provides resources for faith-based service organizations interested in creating programs that help volunteers to discern their vocation and calling, as they build a life of faithful servant leadership.

Calling Congregations is FTE’s national, ecumenical initiative to encourage and equip congregations to identify the next generation of leaders for the church. This network of churches and church-related organizations actively supports young people as they discern their vocations and consider pastoral ministry. Calling Congregations offers resources to local churches and organizations to cultivate vocation care practices in their communities, including up to $20,000 in congregational grants for internships and $10,000 grants to develop vocational resources that support young people exploring Christian ministry. 

Doctoral Fellowships for Students of Color - fellowships to sustain current Ph.D. and Th.D. students of color (Latino/a, Asian, and First Nations doctoral students, and students of African descent) through graduate school and into a vocation of teaching and scholarship.

Professional development for doctoral students - opportunities for mentoring, vocational exploration and professional development that facilitate the timely completion of advanced degrees and help to prepare future theological educators for vital lives of teaching and theological scholarship.

Vocational Friendship Grants - Five $1,000 grants are offered to FTE alumni serving congregations in their first three years of post-seminary ministry, and to Transition-into-Ministry (TiM) alumni in their first three years of ministry after the TiM program.

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