about bethany Fellows...

Bethany Fellows Announces New Pilot Project

Bethany Congregations is a NEW Bethany Fellowships ministry inviting congregational teams, including their Bethany Alumni pastors, into a continuing practice of the “The Bethany Way.”  Each cohort of ten congregations will move through a two-year cycle of annual retreats and regular virtual gatherings that are simple and spacious by design, offering intentional practices of listening, vulnerability, trust, creativity, contemplative silence/prayer, cohort groups, and relationship-building. The first ten congregations will gather around a common commitment to Building the Beloved Community, a commitment to learning, discernment and taking a "next step" in building anti-racist, inclusive communities.  Read more...


For more information email Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Program Director/Pastor.

"Bethany Fellows is a deep breath, when I most need it.  It’s a foundation of friendship found in a community of colleagues.  It’s the guidance, wisdom, and compassion from experienced mentors.  It’s the saving grace at every turn of my ministry.  As a Fellow, it saved me as I floundered, early in my ministry.  As an alumna, it continues to buoy and inspire me as I have learned to stretch, grow, and flourish in shared ministry with my church, my deeply gifted fellow pastors, and most of all, with God.  This is one of the greatest gifts shared with me through Bethany – I heard my call from God, and Bethany Fellows helped me learn how to live that call within and alongside God.  Through the simple  practices of sabbath, community support, and seeking guidance of others, I learned to find God accompanying me, loving me, supporting me throughout it all.  And now, as a minister, it is my great joy to share that truth with the people I am called to serve.  Thank you, Bethany Fellows, for ministering to me, so I might minister with others."   

Rev. Robyn M. Bles, Senior Minister, Wakonda Christian Church, Des Moines, Iowa

Learn more...

  • What is Bethany Fellows?

    Bethany Fellows is a mentoring and spiritual leadership ministry for young clergy in their first four years of congregational service. Originally based on a grant through the generosity of the Lilly Endowment, this work has now been extended as an ongoing response to the need for bright, healthy and spiritually savvy clergy to meet the challenges of today's and tomorrow’s church and building a cadre of leaders for the wider church as well.

  • What is the mission of bethany Fellows?

    Bethany Fellows serves congregations by assisting newly ordained pastors in their transition from seminary to sustained congregational ministry with a strengthened, healthy pastoral identity.

  • How does Bethany Fellows connect with Disciples?

    While the Bethany Fellows model is now also serving ecumenically as a pattern for healthy spiritual development, we were chartered to serve young Disciple ministers. Our fiduciary accountabilities are through Community Christian Church/KC and the Christian Church Foundation.

  • Who is a Bethany Fellow?

    A Bethany Fellow is a newly ordained pastor serving in their first call and transitioning from seminary student to congregational minister. Some serve in youth minister or associate minister roles; some as solo pastors or senior pastors; still others are new church start pastors.

    Currently there are 64 Bethany Fellows (+ over 100 Alums) forming a cadre of leaders who are beneficiaries of a four-year leadership network connection which extends for a lifetime.

  • How does Bethany Fellows work?

    Through a series of retreats, strategically scheduled every 6 months, a total of 8 retreats over 4 years (40 days!), Fellows build upon their seminary experience and theological education in prayer practices and spiritual disciplines, which sustain the soul for a life-time of parish life. Each retreat experience contains worship, solitude, and multiple learning components tailored to the emerging needs of their congregations. The retreat includes a site visit to cutting-edge congregations that stimulates fresh creativity for at-home ministry.  Regular coaching sessions and webinars throughout the year hone their ability to read congregational systems, make appropriate interventions, sustain inner vision, and inspire those around them while discovering effective networking skills.

  • How does someone become a Bethany Fellow?

    The first step is to contact one of our Directors. Send Kim Gage Ryan an email at kim@bethanyfellows.org or call her 573-489-2729. Contact Melanie Harrell Delaney at melanie@bethanyfellows.org.

  • Who leads this work?

    Mentoring and accountability is offered by teams of experienced pastors. The mix of 15 leaders includes a new church start pastor, associate pastor, regional and general church ministers, seminary leaders and senior ministers. Together they share +185 years of collective congregational experience. Relationships of trust, practical wisdom and depth create a positive spiritual matrix for a life-time of discipleship and leadership. See Disciple Fellows Leadership Team and Ecumenical Fellows Leadership Team

    Rev. Kim Gage Ryan and Rev. Melanie Harrell Delaney currently serve as Co-Director/Pastors of Bethany Fellows. Rev Kim Gage Ryan is a career-associate minister and Rev. Melanie Harrell Delaney has served as both solo and lead pastor. Guiding leadership also includes Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Bethany Congregations Program Director, Rev. Don Schutt,  Founding Director, and Dr. Gary Straub who works closely with clergy and congregations navigating search & call. 

Preparing to lead

Since 1999 Bethany Fellows has served congregations by helping newly ordained, young pastors transition from seminary to sustained congregational ministry with a strong and healthy pastoral identity. Our ministry began by serving congregations in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In the Fall of 2014 we launched a Bethany Ecumenical group and have since served congregations in the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Church of the Brethren, Baptist, and Metropolitan Community Churches. See our video above created by Bethany Leader/alum Elizabeth Myer, award winning SALT Project director. 

Through the collegial support of peers and mentor/leaders, young ministers are better able to navigate the beginnings of a vocation and young adult life transitions. While on retreat the Fellows are engaged in spiritual practices as well as visits with dynamic congregations, fueling creativity and insights to share with their congregations, building confidence and strengthening their leadership.  Ecumenical Bethany Fellow Mark Winters, Sr. Minister of First Congregational UCC, Naperville IL affirms, "I don't think I could've guessed how grateful I would be for Bethany Fellows -- for the relationships, the authenticity, the prayer, the ability to just be.  It is definitely my sabbath, which grounds and me and feeds me.  Bethany Fellows has become a community of sustenance for me, giving me exactly what I needed from colleagues and mentors -- less drama, and more Jesus."