The ultimate aim of Lilly Endowment's religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, primarily by helping to strengthen their congregations. To that end, our religion grantmaking in recent years has consisted largely of a series of major, interlocking initiatives aimed at enhancing and sustaining the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

The Endowment has focused on supporting programs and projects that address three broad questions: How do we identify, recruit and call forth a new generation of talented Christian pastors? How do we best prepare and train new ministers for effective and faithful pastoral leadership? How do we improve the skills and sustain the excellence of pastors currently serving congregations? We also fund efforts that enhance the vitality of local congregations and that enable ordinary church members to mine the deep wisdom of the Christian faith and to take up their vocations in the life of the world as people of faith.


Our efforts are premised on the conviction that the local congregation is the primary place where most Christians gather in community to worship God, to learn what it means to be people of faith, to teach the beliefs and practices of Christian faith to each new generation, and to reach out to others in service and witness. Strong, vital congregations play powerful roles in the lives of those who participate in them as well as to the larger civic communities of which they are a part.

Several additional convictions also shape the Endowment's religion funding. First, we believe that the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations. When well-prepared, thoughtful, imaginative, able and caring pastors lead congregations, they tend to thrive. Second, theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors for their leadership responsibilities in congregations. They are uniquely equipped to provide the deep and sustained exploration of the wisdom of the Christian tradition and the practical training pastors need in order to lead their congregations and serve their people well. Third, there is a still wider ecology of institutions (including colleges and universities, publishers and communications media, denominational judicatories and independent agencies) that support congregations and their pastoral leaders as well as conduct other crucial ministries. The Endowment seeks both to support them directly and to enable them to work collaboratively to address key challenges facing local congregations and pastoral leaders. Finally, ongoing research and other forms of sustained intellectual inquiry are necessary to help all these institutions and leaders understand and address the fundamental issues facing the church and religious life in our society today.


In light of these convictions, the Endowment's religion initiatives have been designed: to identify, recruit and call forth a new generation of talented Christian pastors; to enhance the capacities of theological schools to prepare and sustain ministers in effective and faithful pastoral leadership; to assist new pastors as they make their transition from theological seminary into the first several years of the actual practice of congregational ministry; and to provide opportunities for established pastors to renew and sustain their commitments to and excellence in pastoral ministry over the course of their careers. In addition, the Endowment has launched a relatively new initiative that is supporting regional denominational judicatories serving congregations in Indiana to identify and address critical economic challenges faced by their pastors and families.

Most of the Endowmen's religion grants are made in the context of large-scale programmatic initiatives like those described above. In launching and sustaining these initiatives, the Endowment prepares requests for proposals on specific themes or issues that it then sends out to selected institutions that it believes may be well-suited to mount programs of the kind the Endowment seeks to support. While most of these programs are currently closed to new grantees, two of them - the National Clergy Renewal Program and the Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations - are open to applications on an annual basis from congregations that meet each program's selection criteria. (The clergy renewal programs are administered by Christian Theological Seminary, and more information may be obtained from the CTS website ( or by contacting Robert C. Saler at 317/931-4225). In addition to its major initiatives, the Endowment also provides significant financial support to a number of key institutions that advance the central purposes of its religion grantmaking.

For more information

For detailed information about the major initiatives the Endowment has previously launched and the work of key institutions it has funded, please visit:

Insights Into Religion: A Gateway to Resources and Institutions (

This website, funded by Lilly Endowment, is a portal that provides direct access to the websites of many of the organizations that the Endowment has funded to support, connect and resource the broad "ecology" of institutions that together work to enrich and enhance pastoral ministry, congregational vitality and the religious lives of American Christians.

A second website, Resources for American Christianity: Information and Reflection on Selected Projects funded by Lilly Endowment ( ), provides (1) a comprehensive overview of the Religion Division's five major program areas and the "orienting questions" each seeks to encourage grantees to address, (2) a listing of and information about many of the specific religion grants made over the past 20 years and more, and (3) a variety of essays, interviews and study guides on various projects, programs and initiatives the Endowment has funded.

While these two websites provide the best information available regarding grants, projects and initiatives the Endowment has already funded, information about current grantmaking priorities in religion is available only from the Endowment itself. To inquire, please follow the general instructions for contacting the Endowment available on this website. Institutions that seek funding in the field of religion should know, however, that the Endowment rarely makes grants in response to unsolicited proposals.

Religion Division Links:

Insights Into Religion: A Gateway to Resources and Institutions -
Resources for American Christianity -
Christian Theological Seminary -