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COMMUNITAS | Pastoral Leadership Program

The COMMUNITAS pastoral leadership program honors early career pastors and supports them in their development as leaders who can guide their congregations toward becoming significant agents for positive change in their communities. The program selects fifteen pastors from the greater Los Angeles area who have completed five to twelve years of full-time ministry and who have demonstrated high potential for significant leadership. They participate in a series of brief retreat-seminars over a two year period that brings them into conversation with business, political and community leaders and with Pepperdine faculty who have particular expertise related to pressing social and economic issues in the greater Los Angeles area.


The COMMUNITAS Application for Cohort Four will be available in early 2022. Please check back soon.

To recommend yourself or another pastor for the program, click "Recommend a Pastor" below.

For questions regarding the program, please contact Stephanie Cupp, Program Coordinator, stephanie.cupp@pepperdine.edu or 310.506.4141.


Application Materials


As you prepare your application materials, keep in mind that we are looking for younger pastors serving in congregational ministry in the greater Los Angeles area, who demonstrate confidence, optimism, and security in their pastoral role, and who have strong potential for the next two or three decades of Christian ministry. Applicants should have at least five years experience in full-time, congregational ministry, but not much more than twelve years. We are also looking for applicants who have developed a strong theological foundation for their ministry, whether through pursuing an M.Div. degree or continuing education, or through such avenues as an apprenticeship or close mentoring relationships.

The criteria for selection will include vocational clarity, theological acuity necessary to interpret their experiences in the program in light of the biblical narrative, appropriate balance of confidence and ability, good public speaking and preaching, a healthy ego necessary for creativity, integrity, and humility, and an ability to listen to and communicate with a diverse group of people from different social and theological backgrounds for the sake of the common good.

Applications for Cohort Four coming in early 2022.

If you would like to recommend a pastor for this or future cohorts, click the link below. Cohort participants are chosen based on criteria outlined in Characteristics of a Successful Applicant.




Goals and Vision

  • To build early career pastors' organizational and civic leadership skills.
  • To acquaint early career pastors with the systemic causes and implications of such community challenges in the greater Los Angeles area as poverty, health care, mental health education, and environmental issues.
  • To enable early career pastors to develop support networks with other pastors as well as with important business and civic leaders and policymakers in the greater Los Angeles area.
  • To develop a network of younger congregational leaders who will be equipped to engage these important issues practically and theologically and who can share their knowledge and expertise with other faith and civic communities in our area.

We utilized the expertise and research of Pepperdine faculty and their established connections to civic leaders and advocates to build a network of pastors who will continue to exchange ideas and best practices after participation in the leadership program. Additionally, we envision these graduates of the program as mentors to younger pastors beginning their careers.



Program History

In early 2013, Pepperdine University was approached by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., a private philanthropic organization headquartered in Indianapolis, IN, committed to education, community development, and especially, to deepening and enriching the religious lives of American Christians by helping to strengthen local congregations. One of the initiatives reflecting this mission is their Early Career Pastoral Leadership initiative.

For most pastors the five- to ten-year period of ministry signals a crucial time of transition into a new stage of leadership. They have learned the basics of ministerial practice, often serving in the role of assistant or associate pastor and are now preparing to move into the senior pastorate, where they will shoulder the responsibility for shaping an entire congregation. The Lilly Endowment Early Career Pastoral Leadership initiative is designed to help meet these new responsibilities in young pastors' lives by enhancing their leadership skills, deepening their engagement with significant issues facing their communities, building networks with civic, business, and political leaders in their communities, and developing a strong community of support with each other.

The pilot program, conducted at Wabash College, showed dramatic success in terms of pastors' personal growth, leadership abilities, and the support communities they formed with each other. Building on that success, Lilly identified a select group of colleges and universities that were uniquely suited to developing their own pastoral leadership program. From among this group, Pepperdine was selected to participate in future programming due to its location, academic resources, and commitment to the integration of faith and learning.

"The local pastor and congregation is God's best idea for the mending of the entire universe." Reverend Dr. Peter Storey