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 We believe that the long-term vitality of congregations depends on excellent pastoral leadership, and our grants seek to ensure that congregations have a steady stream of wise, faithful and well-prepared leaders. By drawing upon research and insights from conversations with thoughtful religious leaders, we strive to support efforts that present promising responses to challenges facing pastoral leadership and Christian congregations. We pay particular attention to key moments along the arc of a pastor’s ministerial career – from a young person’s wrestling with a call to ministry to an experienced pastor’s seeking to sustain excellence.

Cultivating a New Generation of Pastoral Leaders

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Campus Ministry Theological Exploration of Vocation is a nationwide initiative to help campus ministries working to support the intellectual and spiritual exploration of vocation with public university students. The campus ministries reflect diverse Christian traditions, and their programs take a variety of approaches, including faith-sharing groups, mentoring, internships, and national and international travel experiences, among others.LEARN MORE

Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) is a leadership incubator that inspires young people to make a difference in the world through Christian communities. Since its founding in 1954, FTE has promoted resources, events, networks, grants and fellowships to cultivate leaders, pastors and theological educators. FTE provides a forum through which gifted, purposeful students, young adults and partners explore their passion, purpose and call. LEARN MORE

High School Youth Theology Institutes are designed to help students in high school and college explore how God is calling them to meaningful work, including possible careers in professional ministry. Programs based in colleges, universities, congregations, denominational offices, service agencies and youth ministry organizations identify, ignite and cultivate the gifts of future Christian leaders. LEARN MORE

NetVUE, the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, is a nationwide network of more than 220 colleges and universities formed to enrich the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among undergraduate students. It seeks to examine the role of vocational exploration in a variety of institutional contexts and share knowledge, best practices and reflection on experiences across participating campuses. NetVUE is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges. LEARN MORE

Educating Seminarians to Lead Congregations Effectively

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The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) plays a critical role in providing training and support to theological school educators and administrators. With programs that enhance the skills and broaden the knowledge of faculty, presidents, deans and other administrators. ATS works to strengthen the ability of theological schools to prepare men and women for ministry. LEARN MORE

Louisville Institute at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary brings together pastors leading congregations with scholars and researchers who study congregations so that the work of each may inform and strengthen the other. The Institute provides modest grants to pastors to give them time and resources to explore and write about Christian faith in relation to the practice of pastoral ministry. In addition, the Collaborative Inquiry Teams program brings together pastors and scholars to work to examine critical issues facing churches and produces the strategies and scholarly resources to help congregations negotiate these challenges. LEARN MORE 

Wabash Center for Leadership and Learning in Theology and Religion is based at Wabash College and supports teachers of religion and theology in higher education through meetings and workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources to make accessible the scholarship of teaching and learning. Learn More

Launching New Pastors

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Early Career Programs are designed to support pastors who are in their first five years of congregational ministry. They include efforts to nurture leadership in new pastors, encouraging them to develop their skills for the sake of their congregations and local communities. LEARN MORE

Transition-Into-Ministry is an initiative that helps new pastors as they transition from seminary to full-time pastoral leadership. The majority of the projects funded are congregation-based residency projects in which, like the medical school residency model, new pastors spend time as “residents” within a congregation before assuming leadership of their own church. Learn More

Sustaining Excellence in Pastoral Leadership

Related Grants

Clergy Renewal Programs seek to strengthen congregations by helping their pastors to take time away from day-to-day ministry to replenish their commitment. Lilly Endowment launched the effort in 1999 with a program for congregations and their pastors in Indiana. The initiative expanded in 2000 to include a second program for clergy across the United States. Since their inception, more than 2,600 clergy have been part of the renewal programs. Both programs are administered through a grant to Christian Theological Seminary as part of its Center for Pastoral Excellence. LEARN MORE

Flourishing in Ministry, a research project at the University of Notre Dame, is exploring what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry and what disrupts them from experiencing wellbeing in their work. Researchers are exploring how clergy – often working with lean resources – can serve others and experience a sense of fulfillment and growth in their daily work lives. LEARN MORE

National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders is supported by Endowment grants awarded to 38 religious organizations to reduce or alleviate some of the key financial pressures that impair effective pastoral leadership and improve financial literacy among parish pastors. Common activities include: providing incentives to pastors and their spouses to participate in educational events related to personal finance, offering low- to no-cost professional financial planning and counseling, providing matching contributions for pastors (and congregations) to enroll in retirement savings programs, helping pastors create emergency funds, developing programs to help young pastors pay down or eliminate educational debt, and creating new scholarship funds so that seminarians borrow less while in school.

Thriving in Ministry Initiative is supported by 24 Endowment grants awarded to religious organizations to create and/or enhance projects that help clergy thrive in their roles as pastoral leaders and thus enhance the vitality of the congregations that they serve. The Endowment encouraged organizations to focus especially on efforts designed for younger clergy and pastors who are in the midst of significant professional and personal transitions to help them build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as exemplars and role models and who can guide them through key leadership challenges during these transitional moments. Learn more