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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 twelve pastors from the greater Los Angeles area who have completed approximately five to fifteen years of full-time ministry and who have demonstrated high potential for significant leadership. They participate in a series of retreat-seminars over a one 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 application for the 2024 COMMUNITAS Cohort is closed. 

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

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




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 utilize 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, Ƶ was approached by the , 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