January 15, 2020
Contact: Judith Cebula
317.916.7327 |

Lilly Endowment Launches National Initiative

to Help Congregations Thrive


Indianapolis – Lilly Endowment Inc. invites organizations that support Christian congregations to participate in a national initiative to strengthen churches by helping them adapt to rapid changes affecting their ministries.

“Many religious leaders and researchers have noted that significant social and cultural trends are disrupting established patterns of congregational life,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These trends range from the increasing number of young people who claim no religious affiliation to a growing reliance on digital media for communicating with each other.”

The Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative seeks to help churches understand how these changes influence their ministries so they can respond faithfully to God’s call to nurture the religious lives of their members and serve their communities.

The initiative is designed to encourage organizations that work with Christian congregations to create new or strengthen existing programs to help churches understand their changing contexts; gain clarity about their values and mission; and cultivate vibrant Christian practices.

Interested and eligible charitable organizations in the United States can submit proposals for up to $1 million to be used for up to a five-year period to plan and implement programs. Among organizations expected to apply are theological schools, denominational organizations, colleges and universities and faith-based agencies. In this open and competitive initiative, the Endowment anticipates making approximately 50 grants. Proposals are due by June 1, 2020.

The Thriving Congregations Initiative builds on the work supported by grants made in 2019 to 24 organizations across the nation. This competitive round is intended to expand the number of organizations working with congregations nationwide.

Through the Thriving Congregations Initiative, the Endowment is interested in supporting a variety of approaches that help congregations:

  • Explore the changing social and cultural contexts in which they exist, including understanding the characteristics, interests, history and challenges of their communities
  • Find clarity about their values and mission and articulate how they are called to love God and serve those in their congregations, neighborhoods, regions and across the world
  • Cultivate Christian practices that are rooted in the congregations’ theological or ecclesial traditions. These practices could include hospitality, testimony, sabbath rest, liturgy, music, serving those in need, scripture study and sacraments, among others.

“This is an exciting and challenging time for many congregations,” Coble said. “We understand that pastors and other congregational leaders are asking critical questions and seeking clarity about their values and mission. The Thriving Congregations Initiative aims to help congregations strengthen ministries and thrive so they can better help people encounter God, connect with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.”

Enhancing congregational vitality is a grantmaking priority of the Endowment rooted in the conviction that local congregations are the primary form of Christian community. They are places where Christians gather to worship; where their children and youth are formed in faith traditions; and where they extend care to one another, to neighbors and to people around the world. Therefore, the Endowment supports efforts that help congregations address the challenges they face.

Visit the Endowment’s website to learn more and view the Thriving Congregations Initiative request for proposals.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While gifts of stock remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. The Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. Grantmaking in religion seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians, primarily by supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.