Transition into Ministry Programs Reinforce Clergy Strengths, Overlook Some Areas of Weakness

Transition into Ministry (TiM) programs effectively build on the strengths that newly ordained clergy bring with them out of seminary, our survey results indicate. These programs provide significant training in some aspects of ministry that receive minimal attention from seminaries and divinity schools, but they do little to address many of new clergy’s weakest areas.

Participants were asked to rate how well seminary had prepared them for 18 broad areas of ministry; their choices were “not at all,” “only a little,” “some,” “quite a bit,” and “completely.” Later in the survey, they were asked a similar question about how well their TiM programs had prepared them for those same 18 areas.

Overall, our findings indicate that TiM programs are very effective at providing further training in areas for which participants have already received good training at seminary.

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Between 42% and 62% of those surveyed stated that their TiM programs had prepared them either “quite a bit” or “completely” for the following areas of ministry:

  • Self-development and self-management
  • Preaching and proclamation
  • Pastoral care
  • Organizational leadership
  • Offering spiritual guidance
  • Being a role model
  • Sacramental ministries


Survey respondents rated their TiM programs as more effective than seminary at preparing them to do self-development and self-management and also organizational leadership.

Seminary offered the more effective preparation in the other four areas—preaching and proclamation, pastoral care, being a role model, and sacramental ministries—though TiM programs also made significant contributions.

In a few areas, TiM programs do address topics not covered well by seminaries. Only 19% to 31% of participants said that seminary prepared them “quite a bit” or “completely” in the following areas:

  • Congregational/group development
  • Conflict mediation and resolution
  • Developing lay ministry and leadership
  • Setting objectives and program plans


Between 31% and 40% said their TiM programs prepared them “quite a bit” or “completely” in those four areas.

However, the three areas for which new priests and pastors felt least prepared by seminary were given minimal attention by TiM programs as well.

Between 5% and 15% said seminary had prepared them either “quite a bit” or “completely” in the following areas:

  • Youth work
  • Supervising others and their work
  • Finances and administration


The lowest rated was finances and administration; only 2 respondents out of 350 said that seminary prepared them “completely” for this area of ministry.

Participants indicated that their TiM programs did a better job than seminary at preparing them for work in these areas, but only slightly better. The percentage that selected “quite a bit” or “completely” as the degree to which TiM prepared them remained below 20%.


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