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 2021-22 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.

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. 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.

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.

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 2021-22 program year must be:

1. A new or recently ordained bi-vocational Priest or Deacon who has already been, or in 2021 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 2021 from one of the local schools of formation identified above and will be ordained to the Diaconate (Vocational or Transitional) during 2021 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. Check back for the deadline, which will be in February 2021. 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 a three-day July 2021 meeting at Camp Allen, Texas or a three-day Zoom retreat, depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Important Dates: TBVM Program Calendar 2021-22

Please check back in fall 2020 for important deadlines and dates.