Three-Step Process

This is our suggested process to help you toward a successful proposal and a satisfying experience or revitalization.

1. Discernment
2. Planning
3. Completing Application


Someone is excited to apply for a grant. Discernment of who will be in the cohort and what need you share that is of critical importance is the foundational move toward a successful application and experience.

Step One: Whether you are the person starting the group or have been asked to consider joining, sit with yourself and with God to listen. We observe that this act is often the hardest one for a busy pastor. Start your renewal now: Sit quietly and see what feelings, thoughts, or hopes come to you as you imagine an intentional time for refreshment. Do this more than once.

Step Two: Researchers who study flourishing in ministry suggest that a trusted group of other clergy people may be the most important predictor of vitality. Take some time to think about who you trust, with whom you want to develop more trust, with whom you want to connect, who lifts you up or challenges and supports you.

Step Three: Plan two face-to-face conversations (could be cyber-meeting) with those who may form the cohort but that are preparatory to committing to the grant process.

  • In the first meeting, talk about your current ministry, sharing a high and low (or more than one) of the previous two weeks, and about your life beyond ministry (family, friends, avocation, loves, pains.) Listen for connections and resonance, and mirror that back to each other as the meeting concludes.
  • In the second meeting, each person brings a question that they carry or that has risen since the first meeting. Around the circle, each person shares their question. Listen for commonalities and groupings. Address each question with some attention during the meeting.

Step Four: Following the second meeting, confirm who will commit to the process. If it is fewer than four, you will need to make an additional invitation.

Step Five: Create a simple covenant to express your commitments to each other and the cohort.

Step Six: With the previous conversations as a back drop, each person answers the following question in writing: “How do I want to be different in two years than I am now?” All answers are shared with the entire group. Set a time to gather as a group and ask “What do we hear in the middle?” When you have identified common needs/desires, you are ready to begin planning your proposal. Articulate in a sentence or two your core purpose as a cohort. The idea is that if you meet the core purpose of the cohort, each individual will have moved toward how they want to be different in two years.

example: We are risking exhaustion by being pulled in too many directions—children, aging parents, partners, congregation, worship leader, other staff, etc. We realize that what re-energizes each of us is “getting out of town” for a few days and away from the press of obligations, to see, do and feel things outside of our ordinary.

example: We are stressed because our congregations do not have enough money to keep going like they are. We have theological questions about this situation that we want to tackle, but also we need to learn how to care for ourselves in the midst of uncertainty—emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually.


Step One: Each person prepares a sketch of what they imagine will speak to them in the face of the articulated core purpose. It might be a full blown itinerary or it might be a single experience (a hike, lecture, meal, massage or bubble bath.) Just get your imaginations play. The sketch could be written or drawn. Maybe you make a map of Now and In Two Years and see what you want/need on the path.

Step Two: In a group conversation, share your sketches. What is common? What are the outliers? How much of one type of experience do you want to include? Where does risk show up? Develop a plan that includes the overlap and an outlier or two. Then sit with it for two weeks.

Step Three: Check-in and revise. Once you have consensus, knowing that this is not the final commitment, divide responsibilities for (1) Writing overall narrative of your core purpose, the activities you propose, and how they will meet your core purpose. (2) Preparing a timeline of activities. (3) Preparing an itemized budget and explanation of costs.

Step Four: Share, discuss, and, if you are like most groups, reduce the budget! Come to consensus on your plan for the grant.

Step Five: Ask yourselves some check questions:

  • Have we made explicit provision for regular contact?
  • Is our plan specific about where will go and what we will do? Plans may change, but have a solid plan in place.
  • Have we used consistent language to describe activities throughout? Does the language of the narrative match the language of the budget? Have someone who has not been part of the process read the cohort information for clarity and coherence.
  • Is this budget based in reality? Check airline fares, hotel rates and standard meal allowances.
  • If our total budget is more than $10,000, have we stated clearly and convincingly the sources of excess funds? Is this realistic?
  • Does this plan sound plausible to someone who does not know us?
  • Does our personality shine through?
  • Does it sound too much like a school project? Too much like amusement only?
  • Look at your individual answers in relation to the proposal. What do you see?
  • Are we excited about the prospect?

Completing Application

2019 Application

2019 Application Instructions

The application is in PDF format. You will be able to save your work and share it with other members of your cohort via email or file-share programs like Dropbox. Please note that only Adobe PDF products should be used to fill out this form. Adobe Acrobat Reader DC can be downloaded here for free.

There are two parts to the application: Cohort Information and Proposal and Individual Information. Members of the cohort must discuss and prepare the proposal together. The proposal needs to be well-thought out, coherent and reflective of group development.

Individuals must also each prepare and submit an Individual Information form. 

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

What makes a strong proposal?

The most compelling proposals include:

(1) a statement of hoped-for learnings or changes;

(2) a well-articulated relationship between the proposed activities and the hoped-for learnings or changes;

(3) a robust agenda, meaning non-trivial subject matter and actions, adequate attention to the cohort as community, an explicit but not overly constraining learning agenda, and ongoing practices to support the enterprise;

(4) a sound, thoughtful, realistic budget. Should your group develop a plan which requires a budget greater than $10,000, you may submit it so long as you indicate the sources of additional income needed. Cohort members often contribute continuing education funds from their own organizational budgets.

Click to Download the Sample of a College of Pastoral Leaders Budget.

If you have any questions you may email