Lilly Endowment is pleased to announce the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative to help theological schools strengthen and sustain their capacities to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Christian churches – primarily ordained pastoral leaders and secondarily congregational lay ministers.

Through this three-phase initiative, the Endowment seeks to assist theological schools in the United States and Canada accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in efforts to do the following:

  • Explore emerging challenges and opportunities facing their institutions as well as the Christian congregations that they serve
  • Gain clarity about their mission in light of these challenges and opportunities and in relationship to the leadership needs of their constituent churches
  • Assess the effectiveness of their educational strategies and financial operations for preparing and supporting pastors and congregational lay ministers
  • Design and implement plans to launch new and/or strengthen current projects to address their key challenges and opportunities and to make their institutions more educationally effective and financially viable for the continued preparation and support of pastors and congregational lay ministers into the future

The Endowment has allocated $87.5 million for the initiative.

View the Request for Proposals.
View the Appendix: Challenges and Opportunities Facing Theological Schools.
View Frequently Asked Questions.

Phase 1

Each eligible ATS-accredited theological school was invited to submit a letter requesting a grant of up to $50,000 for institutional assessment and strategic planning activities for the purposes stated in the Request for Proposals. This phase of the initiative was noncompetitive. Letters requesting assessment and planning grants, as well as accompanying materials, were due by March 15, 2021. Phase 1 is now closed.

Phase 2

In a competitive second phase, each eligible ATS-accredited theological school may apply for a grant of up to $1 million to implement a plan to strengthen its educational and financial capacities to prepare and support pastors and congregational lay ministers for the long term. Proposals for implementation grants were due by August 2, 2021. Phase 2 is now closed.

Phase 3

In a competitive third phase, each eligible ATS-accredited theological school may submit a concept paper for a large-scale project to develop a new and/or enhance a current collaborative endeavor that would 1) strengthen the educational and financial capacities of the collaborating institutions to prepare and support pastors and congregational lay ministers for the long term and 2) offer a compelling and sustainable strategy or model of theological education that, if successful, could be adopted by other schools. The Endowment anticipates inviting selected theological schools to develop their concepts and submit proposals for grants of up to $5 million to implement their collaborative endeavors. Concept papers are due by November 1, 2021.

Submit an application for Phase 3.

Initiative Information Sessions

Lilly Endowment hosted four information sessions regarding the Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. The February 5th and 10th session focused specifically on Phase 1 submissions. The April 26 and May 5 sessions focused on Phases 2 & 3. If you would like to access videos of these sessions, please email your request to