Lilly Endowment Gives Christian Ministries $70 Million for the Establishment of Pastor Support Networks and Programs

The Lilly Endowment has donated a combined $70 million to dozens of Christian colleges and ministries across the nation to help them establish pastor support networks and programs in 29 states.

The Indianapolis-based philanthropic organization is awarding 78 institutions nationwide grants ranging from $31,000 to $1 million through its Thriving in Ministry initiative to help develop or further programs to assist pastors in building relationships and help them deal with the wide range of issues they could face in urban, rural or suburban ministry life.

Grantees include various theological schools, faith-based colleges and universities, church congregations, denominational agencies, independent religious organizations and religious communities that span mainline, evangelical, Catholic and orthodox Christian traditions.

Azusa Pacific University, a private evangelical university in the suburbs of Los Angeles, received nearly $1 million from the endowment. The school plans to use the money to help launch a new certificate course in pastoral health that among other things will help inner city pastors deal with the trauma of urban life.

According to APU Center for Vocational Ministry Executive Director Chris Adams, the non-academic program will feature four key dimensions that studies at the “Flourishing in Ministry” program at the University of Notre Dame have found will “prevent ill being and promote wellbeing over time for pastors.”

Pastors will complete the program in cohorts as they go to various retreats, seminars, workshops. Each pastor will also receive a “pastoral health coach.”

Among other things, the program aims to help pastors deal with the stresses of day-to-day ministry, develop close relationships outside of the ministry, and develop a “strategic support system.”

The development of the program comes as data has shown that a large percentage of pastors deal with some form of depression or anxiety.

“We are in this large, sprawling area with a lot of people. One of the challenges that come with urban ministry involves … high exposure to trauma for clergy,” Adams told The Christian Post. “It’s not only their own direct exposure. Depending on what part of LA they live in, there is vicarious trauma where a lot of their parishioners are struggling with the reality of urban life and crime and all those sorts of challenges that come with big cities that suburban and rural pastors don’t face. They have other challenges that are unique too.”

Adams said that the APU initiative has not yet been named and it will likely to take about a year before it will be active. While the initiative likely would have been launched even without the Lilly Endowment grant, the grant has allowed APU to “significantly expand” the program with additional staff, a programing budget and a marketing budget.

“The grant certainly helps us take a quantum leap,” he said.

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Source: Christian Post