Lilly Endowment awards more than $20M to help pastors

Lilly Endowment Inc. has approved 24 grants nationwide totaling more than $20 million to help clergy working in congregations thrive as pastoral leaders.

The Indianapolis-based foundation this week announced the grants will help seminaries, universities and other organizations create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as role models and mentors.

The grants to a wide variety of Christian communities make up the first round of funding in the endowment's Thriving in Ministry Initiative. A second round of funding will be made available next year.

The first-round grants include two to Indiana organizations: $1 million to the Sisters of St. Benedict of Beech Grove and slightly less than that to the University of Notre Dame.

The 24 organizations receiving first-round funding reflect a wide variety of Christian communities, including African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Churches of Christ, Brethren, Episcopal, the Evangelical Covenant Church, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Quaker organizations, as well as interdenominational and non-denominational organizations. Many of the organizations are working to help clergy from multiple denominational traditions.

Programs they are developing include efforts that:

— Connect candidates for ordained ministry with mentor-pastors who help them make the transition to full-time pastoral leaders as they transition into their first pastorates.

— Create mission immersion experiences for mid-career pastors to help them foster life-giving and mutually enriching relationships with each other and reinvigorate their passion for ministry by building relationships with mission communities.

— Establish peer groups for pastors serving congregations in rural and urban areas that will provide them with coaching, mentoring and spiritual direction from seasoned pastors as well as connect them with organizations that are creating new and innovative models of ministry.

— Bring together Latino/a clergy who are in the early stages of their careers with pastor-mentors to reflect on effective practices of pastoral leadership in churches in transition.

— Gather clergywomen from different denominations for a series of retreats that include learning, prayer and spiritual mentoring to reflect on the unique challenges encountered by women who are leading congregations.

Thriving in Ministry builds upon recent studies that examined the common professional and personal challenges pastors face, including the Endowment-funded, Flourishing in Ministry research project, directed by Matt Bloom at the University of Notre Dame.

“We have received many reports from pastors about the changing demands of serving as a pastoral leader today,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Many pastors are seeking to find role models and wise colleagues who can guide them through professional transitions and challenges encountered in particular ministry contexts. Our hope is that the initiative will support a new wave of efforts that help clergy thrive and lead their congregations more effectively.”

Through a request for proposals in the second round of the Thriving in Ministry Initiative, the Endowment will invite nonprofit charitable organizations in the United States to submit proposals for developing new or strengthening existing programs that support clergy and help them thrive as pastoral leaders. These organizations include – but are not limited to – seminaries, colleges and universities, retreat centers, denominational judicatories, faith-based agencies and other religious organizations.

Lilly Endowment is one of the largest grant-making foundations in the United States, and concentrates its giving to the causes of community development, education and religion. Over the course of 2016, the endowment paid grants totaling $452.8 million, the majority of which were issued to Indiana-based organizations.

The following organizations have received first-round grants in the Thriving in Ministry Initiative:

— Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky – $999,515
— Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio – $993,514
— Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas – $995,145
— Catholic Extension, Chicago – $1 million
— Catholic Theological Union, Chicago – $1 million
— Center for Courage and Renewal, Seattle – $1 million
— City Seminary of New York, New York City – $1 million
— Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia – $1 million
— Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisburg, Virginia – $999,893
— Fourth Episcopal District A.M.E. Church, Chicago – $999,237
— George Fox University, Newberg, Oregon – $1 million
— Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community, Landover, Maryland – $ 1 million
— Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota – $999,999
— Memphis Theological Seminary, Memphis – $1 million
— New York Theological Seminary, New York City – $959,996
— North Park University, Chicago – $999,677
— Pepperdine University, Malibu, California – $999,969
— Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey – $1 million
— Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia – $1 million
— The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Seattle – $1 million
— Sisters of St. Benedict of Beech Grove, Indiana, Beech Grove – $ 1 million
— Texas Methodist Foundation, Austin, Texas – $ 1million.
— University of Notre Dame, South Bend – $998,716
— Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia – $ 1 million

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