Psychological Science & Ministry Awards 2017-10-13T15:55:12+00:00

Psychological Scientist in the Congregation Awards

Psychology and ministry can naturally complement each other. The STAR Office at Fuller Theological Seminary is currently hosting an awards program that supports 6 teams of psychologists and pastors in ministry-focused collaborations. The Psychological Scientist in the Congregation awards program began on June 1, 2017 and will conclude on March 30, 2018. For information on our 6 teams, please see the tab below or visit

Meet the Teams

The partnership between Psychological Scientist, Lyn Worsley, and Pastoral Staff member, Sarah Condie, will focus on very young members of their community. Brand new mothers will have the opportunity to learn skills to bolster their resilience, develop secure attachment with their new babies, and help them navigate the challenges of new motherhood. Lyn will model the two accredited psychosocial programs for Sarah, and then Sarah will take over to lead the programs as psychological models now embedded in a ministry setting. The project will examine the benefits these moms experience in their participation, both in terms of skills learned and used, their emotional adjustment, and how the experience influences their participation in other aspects of the church’s ministry.

Even vibrant churches can learn a thing or two! Psychological Scientist, Dr. Alexis Abernethy, will be partnering with Pastor Lucious Hicks, to dive deeper into the newly formed Champion Recovery Ministry at Faithful Central Bible Church. Alexis will use the psychological science of habit formation to pinpoint important practical tools and behaviors in order to deepen Champion leaders’ understanding of recovery from addiction. Lucious and Alexis will also partner to develop training materials that capitalize on the science of healthy small group leadership to equip leaders as they walk with others through recovery. God gave us psychological science; let’s use it to enhance our ministry.

Difficult conversations in the church about faithful discipleship in the midst of divisive social and political issues led church members at First Pres to acknowledge, “I don’t even know how to have this conversation.” Psychological Scientist, Kristen Gustavson, and Pastoral Staff member, Mark Stryker, have responded to this need with a plan for a 5-week small group experience titled, “Deep Cries Out to Deep: Learning to Listen with the Heart of Jesus.” Using the psychological science examining the qualities of listening and conversation, Kristen and Mark have collaborated on a curriculum to teach skills of engaging difficult topics, listening for deeper content, and staying present in the midst of emotionally challenging dialogue. They will pilot the group model with 3 church cohorts, adapting, learning, and collaborating to create meaningful growth.

Do your religious convictions give you security, or challenge you to grow? Does your political posture shape how you weigh decisions? How secure are you in your sense of connection to God? Psychological Scientist, Ron Wright, is partnering with Pastor Jon Middendorf to guide the staff, leadership, and congregation of OKC First Church of the Nazarene into a personal dialogue on these issues. Ron and Jon will survey the church members and leaders in these areas using measures associated with Terror Management Theory, Moral Foundations Theory, and Attachment with God. The team will use the data they collect to guide conversations and presentations connecting these characteristics of religious, moral, and spiritual formation to challenge the congregation to grow. Psychological science serving formation, sounds exciting!

Psychological Scientist Daryl Van Tongeren and Pastor Jon Brown believe that the church is the right place to challenge racial biases. Daryl and Jon will guide their church leadership through an examination of the psychological science associated with Implicit Biases. Using a test to identify one’s own implicit bias, the team will help leaders understand the ways that we are all influenced by social and cultural messages. The next step is to do something about it! The team will lead the Pillar community into an intervention to develop humility. Cultivating humility allows for an accurate self-perception, openness to the other, and a desire for justice. These are seeds for reconciliation, and it is encouraging to see how the science of humility and implicit bias might lead to deeper transformation in a community.

Leading a small group is a challenging role. Imagine the challenge if members disclose mental health crises, or face a life-changing trauma, or get caught in a conflict that threatens to rip apart long-standing relationships. Pastor Lance Nicholson has partnered with Psychological Scientists Chelsea Greer and Joe Currier to consult with and train the small group leaders in South City Church. Their curriculum will help leaders understand the physical, emotional, and relational dimensions of mental illness and trauma, as well as the steps to meaningful forgiveness. Leaders will also gain skills to respond in helpful ways and offer referrals for needed care. Chelsea, Lance, and Joe plan to reach out in their community and offer the training to other local pastors. Teaching, encouraging, and empowering are awesome ways for psychological science to serve ministry leaders.