About Bethany Fellows
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."
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.
Bethany Fellows serves congregations by helping young pastors transition from seminary to sustained ministry with well-being and strength of spirit.
While Bethany Fellows serves pastors and congregations in over 6 different denominations, we are rooted in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Our fiduciary accountabilities are through Community Christian Church/KC and the Christian Church Foundation.
A Bethany Fellow is a newly ordained pastor serving in their first or second 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 or college campus pastors. All Bethany Fellows pastors serve congregations or gathered faith communities.
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 lifetime of ministry life. Each retreat experience contains worship, contemplative prayer practices, 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.
The first step is to contact one of our Directors. Send Kim Gage Ryan an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her 573-489-2729. Contact Melanie Harrell Delaney at email@example.com.
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.
In 1999, Bethany Fellows began serving congregations by helping young, newly ordained pastors transition from seminary to sustained congregational ministry with well-being and strength of spirit.
The first Bethany Disciple Fellows cohort began serving congregations in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) through a grant from The Lilly Endowment.
Over the next decade, Bethany Fellows grew to be fully self-supported by individual and congregational donors who witnessed the positive impact of Bethany Fellows on the well-being and leadership capacity of congregational pastors.
The Bethany Ecumenical Fellows group launched in 2021, providing a second Bethany Fellows cohort. We have since served congregations in the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, Church of the Brethren, Baptist, and Metropolitan Community Churches and continue to offer support and resources for 200 alumni pastors.
2021 brought the launch of Bethany Congregations, an invitation for Bethany Fellows alumni and their congregations to continue practicing "The Bethany Way" of prayer, community, listening, vulnerability, creativity, discernment, and faithful action.
At the time Bethany Fellows began, national studies revealed that 40% of young, newly ordained pastors left the ministry due to isolation, debt, and burnout. Bethany Fellows provides connection, wise practices, and sustaining rhythms of prayer and retreat to equip young pastors with the tools they need to thrive in ministry and with their families. After 24 years and with 200 alumni, 90% of Bethany Fellows alumni are still in ministry, with 70% continuing to serve as congregational pastors.
Ecumenical Bethany Fellow Mark Winters, Sr. Minister of Federated Church of Martha's Vineyard 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 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."