Pastoral Ministry

Earlham School of Religion was founded in 1960 to prepare a new generation of Quaker pastors. Many serve as pastors in every Friends United Meeting (FUM) yearly meeting that has pastoral meetings as well as some Evangelical Friends Church International (EFI) yearly meetings. Yet, Friends face a crisis created by a shortage of qualified, well educated, Quaker pastors.

The proposal for a pastoral ministry endowment will accomplish these important objectives:

  • Elevate the pastoral studies faculty position through the creation of a named, endowed faculty chair.
  • Support an ESR-led discernment assistance program for meetings and Friends responding to calls to ministry.
  • Provide continuing education and renewal opportunities for Friends pastors building support networks.
  • Solidify the pastoral studies program for perpetuity as a permanent feature of the Master of Divinity program.

Quaker Pastoral Ministry and ESR

Friends accepted pastoral ministry a little more than a century ago, in contrast to other denominations where pastoral ministry and leadership is commonplace. This change transformed pastoral meetings, as a single individual assumed responsibility for a diverse set of tasks. Congregations came to expect pastors to preach, conduct home visitation, provide counseling, connect meetings with their communities, and act as effective administrators. Their expectations sometimes exceeded the skills, education and training offered by their pastors.

Over time, those expectations and seminaries' preparations of students for pastoral ministry have evolved for the better. Quaker pastors are common to FUM and EFI congregations, where they serve a vital role in helping communities and individuals develop rich lives of faith, an in the formation of religious beliefs and spiritual values.

Yet, Quaker pastors are something of an endangered species. Many lack formal preparation for pastoral ministry, and even more leave the profession after serving for a brief period. This attrition, and the lack of qualified pastoral applicants, leads to Friends meetings filling positions with pastors who are from other faith traditions.

ESR attempts to counter this trend. Pastoral Ministry program graduates, supported by formal preparation for their roles, serve across the world within the structures of meetings and churches. An estimated one-third of our graduates have served meetings and churches in Friends United Meeting affiliated yearly meetings, churches belonging to Evangelical Friends International, and numerous churches in other denominations. Others minister on campuses, as church planters, and through creative forms of ministry like art and writing.

We equip Pastoral Ministry students with a thorough grounding in Scripture, religious history, and other subjects that inform how they understand God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, so that they are faithful and capable interpreters of those stories through preaching, pastoral care and outreach.

We emphasize spiritual maturity. Development of a rich life of the Spirit happens through theological reflection, studying and understanding the authoritative voices of one's faith tradition, and examination of one's own experience. Students integrate their discoveries into the fabric of their lives, and seek to articulate these experiences in ways that are understandable and relevant to others.

We stress the formation of a ministerial identity, and help guide students toward avoiding messianic complexes while understanding their special role as an ambassador for God's work. This is rooted in the sense of self, and influences the values pastors seek to honor.

We nurture students' relational skills so that they are good listeners and communicators, empathetic to the condition of others, moved toward empowering those around them, and sensitive to the challenges of a pluralistic world.

We develop pastors as leaders. There is no universal leadership style among Friends, so pastors must understand how to exercise effective leadership in the context of the meetings in which they serve. Formal education in the dynamics, methods and skills of leadership is essential.

The pastoral ministry endowment will continue to fund this critical work, and help insure that churches and meetings in the Quaker world and beyond have access to pastoral ministers who have the qualities, formal education and training, skills, and life experience to serve congregations and communities.


These queries are provided to help you prayerfully consider whether this major gift proposal is a priority for you as you act as a steward of your resources.

Do you value the work of the pastor as an expression of ministry among Friends?

Do you have a concern for the quality and the supply of pastoral ministers among Friends?

Do you have the means to help Earlham School of Religion build an endowment to support the pastoral ministry program at ESR?

What level of gift are you able to make to manifest this vision for Friends Pastoral Education?

We offer multiple options for funding this endowment. A donor who chooses to fully fund the endowment will have the option of naming the program.

For more information or to discuss your interest in supporting Pastoral Ministry at ESR contact Tom Decker at 800-432-1377