Helping Chart a Course to Thriving Ministry

Samford University’s Center for Congregational Resources exists to come alongside communities of faith and their leaders, helping them chart a course to thriving ministry. The Center began in 2003, as part of Lilly Endowment’s nationwide Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative. At that time, the Center’s mission was primarily focused on clergy renewal and continuing education. Now the Center also provides services and resources designed to help congregations.  We can be your partner on the journey, helping you chart a course toward your God-given vision for mission and ministry. 

Our Method

We recognize that clergy and congregations possess the creativity and ingenuity needed to address their challenges, opportunities, and possibilities. We believe such creativity and ingenuity are more readily activated with help from an outside resource person. The Center provides trained Resource Strategists and Pastoral Consultants who come alongside clergy and/or congregational leaders to facilitate a process of discovery and learning. Center staff maintain a catalogue of proven resources well-suited for the needs or opportunities these strategists discover. This information is provided to the congregational leaders for their use while working to achieve solutions. 

The Center’s goal is to maintain a working relationship with participating clergy and/or congregations over a period of time, offering further assistance when needed as they exercise their own initiative.

We ask questions and listen.

Our Resource Strategists, though well-trained and experienced ministers, do not function as experts, making pronouncements or offering a “fix” for the congregation. We don’t have all the answers. We listen to clergy and congregations and help them ask the right questions. Our goal is to assist as they articulate more clearly what they are thinking, which results in deeper understanding and clarity about actions they need to undertake.

We reverse the initiative.

We do not come into a conversation with pre-determined solutions. Rather we rely on the gifts within an existing congregation to be called forth as they work to discover paths they need to take. Our role is to walk alongside and encourage this journey of discovery. When potential answers are uncovered, we help clergy and congregational leaders act on the challenges and opportunities they identify as priority and assist as they exercise their own initiative for the work that needs to be done.

We help slow things down.

We recognize some challenges are acute and need an immediate response. However, in most situations, congregations benefit from a slow-down of the decision making process. This allows time for greater intentionality in decision making that comes as a result of reflection, assessment, and strategizing.

We build relationships.

We believe that engaging outside support can often result in frustration because of the typically short-term nature of such an arrangement.  Our goal is to be an interested and engaged partner with clergy and congregations, providing encouragement, support, and resources over an extended period of time.

We learn from one another.

The Center offers a clearing house of knowledge and experience. In addition to Resource Strategists and Pastoral Consultants, annotated bibliographies of proven resources are available in both print and online versions. Based on feedback from relationships with numerous congregations and clergy persons, this valuable resource is regularly updated and made available to all clergy and congregations.

What We Do

The core mission of the Center for Congregational Resources (CCR) is to come alongside communities of faith and their leaders helping them chart a course toward fulfilling their God-given vision.

We fulfill this mission by helping them identify and understand their challenges, opportunities, and possibilities. We then work in partnership with them to find, obtain, and use the best resources available as they respond to their self-identified needs.  We define a resource as anything that assists our clients to discover a path to answering the questions they have. These resources may be printed materials, online and digital media, or a strategist who walks alongside a congregation during this discovery process.

Some examples of the services we offer are:

Strategic Thinking

The Center works directly with clergy, staff, and congregational leaders as they clarify their unique challenges and opportunities. We help them find resources well-suited to address their needs.

Educational Events

The Center provides conferences on topics of interest among groups of clergy and/or congregations. When we observe several congregations experiencing similar challenges or opportunities, we provide ways for these churches to learn from each other. We also help create networks of clergy and congregations for the purpose of peer learning and support.

Resource Clearing House

The Center maintains current guides of vetted resources covering a variety of day-to-day congregational concerns and needs. These resource guides are available online and in print format.


Small grants are available to help congregations purchase resources they need to address the challenges or opportunities they identify through the discovery process. Grants also support clergy who desire time away from the ministerial role for purposes of Sabbath renewal or study.

Resource Strategists

Bell, Calvin

Calvin Bell

Calvin Bell is an ordained Baptist minister who has served as the senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Bessemer, AL for twenty-one years. He is a 2006 graduate of Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, AL where he received a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies. He also holds two degrees from Beeson Divinty School at Samford University: Master of Divinity (2011) and Doctor of Ministry (2017).

In addition to serving as a pastor, Calvin teaches biblical classes in the Jefferson County District Missionary Baptist Association Congress of Christian Education and the Alabama State Baptist Congress of Christian Education, both of which are subsidiaries of the National Baptist Convention USA.

Calvin has been married to his wife Shernetta for 29 years. They are the proud parents of four adult children (Paris, Calvin Jr., Cornelius, and Tiara).

Bill Blackerby

Bill Blackerby

Bill is a Birmingham native and a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College (BA) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (MA). He received his Master of Divinity from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Illinois and was ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church in June of 1987 and as a priest in December of the same year. For 21 years, Bill represented the Episcopal Church on the campuses of Birmingham-Southern, Samford, and UAB as Episcopal Campus Chaplain. In addition to college ministry, he served at two churches as an assistant and three churches as interim rector. Bill is also an adjunct instructor for the Harrison Honors Program at Birmingham-Southern and for the University Honors Program at UAB.

Julia Bradley

Julia earned a double major in Religion and Sociology from Samford University in 2020. Julia has interned with the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), the Center for Congregational Resources at Samford University, and has lead workshops on Millennials and GenZ’s. She is currently working at the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C.

Center Staff

Photo of Keri Burns
Keri Burns
Center for Congregational Resources
133 Brooks Hall
Photo of Jennifer McClure Haraway
Jennifer McClure Haraway
Associate Professor of Religion and Sociology, Congregational Research Strategist
Biblical and Religious Studies and Geography and Sociology
216 Chapman Hall