What is Thriving in Bi-Vocational Ministry (TBVM)?

TBVM is a yearlong continuing education program offered through the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest. The program supports new or recently ordained bi-vocational Priests and Deacons serving in various pastoral settings. TBVM facilitates the building of relationships with peers and more experienced clergy who serve as role models to guide participants through key leadership challenges at critical moments in their early ministerial careers. The primary goal of TBVM is to help clergy thrive in their pastoral settings and congregational leadership and, in doing so, to enhance the vitality of the congregations and communities they serve.

TBVM is part of the wider Thriving in Ministry Initiative generously funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. All costs and expenses of participation in TBVM are paid by a grant to Seminary of the Southwest through this Initiative.

What Kinds of Continuing Education Courses are Offered Through TBVM? ▼

The 2020-21 TBVM program year will offer courses in Preaching, Spiritual Formation and Practices, and Congregational Leadership Theory and Practice.

1. Spiritual Formation and Practices

Participants integrate spiritual practices into their daily and weekly routines and gain tools which empower them to embrace their role as spiritual guide for their communities.  They will also learn strategies for integrating and teaching spiritual practices into congregational life. Cohorts will explore together topics such as rule of life, the spiritual journey, discernment and more in order to build a framework that supports individual and congregational spirituality. 

Led by Rebecca Hall, MSF, Director of Spiritual Formation for the Iona Center at Seminary of the Southwest.


  • Camp Allen Gathering: July 26-29, 2020
  • Zoom Calls: every other week for two hours and fifteen minutes
  • Days: Mondays, 6-8 pm CST or Fridays, 1-3pm CST
  • Dates: late August – May 2021 (extra time off at Thanksgiving, Christmas)

Program Commitments

  • Participate actively in a private Facebook cohort group
  • Learn to use Zoom (audio and video) before beginning the program
  • Have access to internet speed that supports video conferencing 
  • Spend about 1 hour per week on reading/class preparation
  • Participate in one-hour meetings monthly with a mentor who is an experienced priest or deacon   

2. Preaching

Participants in this course will fully engage with the online practices and teaching methods pioneered by Backstory Preaching (backstorypreaching.com). Each participant will develop their preaching skills through emphases on craft and spirituality, with a goal of experiencing sermon preparation as a gift. Following the July 26-29 meeting, participants will meet by videoconference in small groups, receive 1:1 mentoring and teaching about effective sermons, and have their sermons appraised by peers, mentors, and their congregations.

Led by the Rev. Lisa Cressman, DMin, and a team of mentors from Backstory Preaching.


  • Camp Allen Gathering, July 26-29, 2020
  • Sermon Camp Orientation. Multiple sessions available (TBD), week of August 3rd.
  • Sermon Camp, August 7-September 25th. Weekly, one-hour online sessions (multiple sessions available), plus reading and integration. Approximately three hours per week.
  • Bootcamp, August 7-11. One hour online daily (multiple sessions available) + daily sermon prep. By or on Sunday Aug. 13th, prepare and preach a sermon. Approximately ten hours for this week only.
  • Sermon Camp continues, until Sept. 25th. One hour online weekly, multiple sessions available) + two hours/week reading and online discussion.
  • Vacation Week: September 28-October 7
  • Mentorship Orientation: October 7, 9-2:30 Central
  • Mentorship begins. Roughly 10 hours/month. The Mentorship has a very flexible schedule to be worked out between you and your mentor; group online sessions will have multiple sessions available. 
  • Dates: August 2020 – May 2021

Program Commitments 

  • Participate actively in a Mighty Networks cohort group
  • Competent and active participation in Mighty Networks and Zoom videoconferences, which includes having access to internet speed that supports video conferencing 
  • Participate in one-hour meetings monthly with a second mentor who is an experienced priest or deacon

3. Congregational Leadership: Theory and Practice

Participants develop and practice leadership skills through interactive engagement with a team of experienced congregational leaders who introduce various leadership theories and help participants put them into practice. Course content includes strategies for selecting and developing vestries and bishop’s committees; leading meetings; having hard conversations; community-building and decision-making through Christian discernment; using financial statements as spiritual practice; theological budgeting; recognizing the need for adaptive leadership/adaptive change and implementing adaptive strategies; discerning a congregation’s core vocations; creating missional strategies; leading missional communities; and using scripture as a foundation for leadership practice.

Led by the Rev. John Lewis, DPhil, and a team of experienced educators and congregational leaders.


  • Camp Allen Gathering July 26-29, 2020
  • Zoom video conference schedules TBD at Camp Allen 
  • Dates: August to late May 2021 (holiday breaks will be taken)
  • Participate in Zoom calls every other week for two hours and fifteen minutes; dates and times TBD at the July 26-29 meeting at Camp Allen

Program Commitments: 

  • Competent and active participation in Zoom video conferences, which includes internet speed that supports videoconferencing-level bandwidth
  • Participate in one-hour meetings monthly with a mentor who is an experienced priest or deacon 

Who May Apply? ▼

A TBVM applicant for the 2020-21 program year must be:

1. A new or recently ordained bi-vocational Priest or Deacon who has already been, or in 2020 will be assigned to serve in a pastoral ministry setting; 


2. A graduate from a local school of formation in a Diocese participating in the Iona Collaborative, or a graduate from the Iona School for Ministry or the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry; 


3. A person who will graduate in 2020 from one of the local schools of formation identified above and will be ordained to the Diaconate (Vocational or Transitional) during 2020 and assigned to serve in a pastoral ministry setting.

What is the process for acceptance into TBVM? ▼

Each person must complete the online Application form and submit it by 5:00pm CST on Friday, March 6, 2020. TBVM staff will review the applications and set up short interviews with the applicants. Applicants will be notified by email regarding all admission decisions. Thereafter, participants chosen for inclusion in the program will work with TBVM staff to arrange travel plans for attending the July 26-29, 2020 meeting at Camp Allen, Texas.

Important Dates: TBVM Program Calendar 2020-21

March 6, 2020: Deadline for online submission of Applications

Spring 2020: Admissions process, including interviews with cohort leaders. Coordination of travel plans for participants to attend July 26-29 meeting

July 26-29, 2020: In-person launch of program at Camp Allen, Texas

August 2020 – May/June 2021: Videoconferences with cohort leaders, mentors

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