The Program

The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program will provide grants of up to $50,000 each directly to congregations for the support of a renewal program for their pastor. The costs associated with family members who accompany a pastor may be included in the amount requested for the pastor. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to help the congregation fulfill pastoral duties during the pastor’s absence and/or to support activities that enable the congregation as a whole to be renewed in its ministry.

The pastor and congregation will work together to design the renewal program. Both will agree on 1) the length of the program, 2) the pastor’s activities during the program, 3) congregational renewal activities that will take place during the pastor’s absence, and 4) how the pastor and congregation will share their experiences and insights with one another when the renewal leave is completed. The congregation will submit the proposal to Christian Theological Seminary.

Clergy renewal programs may take many forms. No specific model is prescribed. Possible programs may include an uninterrupted period for reading and writing, directed research at a theological school, a study trip to religious sites or travel for other purposes in the United States or elsewhere in the world, quiet time for rest and prayer, special visits with family and friends. The possibilities are many. The best proposals combine several of these elements in a balanced and sensible way. We have learned from previous grantees that the ideal renewal program is an uninterrupted time of three to four months.

Pastors may use up to $2,500 for post-leave activities, such as follow-up counseling, spiritual direction, continuing education or personal fitness programs that may be an outgrowth of the clergy renewal experience. Post-leave activities are not intended to include vacations, conferences, or congregational activities. All congregational activities should be described and the cost included in the congregation’s portion of the renewal budget. No approval for reallocating funds in order to support additional post-leave activities will be granted once the pastor has returned from the pastor’s renewal leave.

CTS does not encourage use of professional grant writers outside the congregation applying for this grant. Creating and writing the proposal is intended as an occasion for joyful discernment and collaboration between pastor and congregation.

Who It’s For

This program is open to pastors of Christian congregations who are serious about parish ministry and who can—in conversation and discernment with their congregations—envision this program as a means of renewing their commitment to that congregation and to ordained ministry. This is NOT added ‘vacation’ time! It is designed for those congregations and pastors who have a strong relationship with one another, a high degree of mutual trust and support, and are eager to see their relationship strengthened, renewed, and continued.

The Purpose

The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seeks to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.

Pastors serve a variety of roles in their position at the center of congregational life: preacher, teacher, spiritual guide, pastoral visitor, friend, confidant. The responsibilities are continual, and the pace and demands of parish life can be relentless, often leaving even the most dedicated pastors recognizing the need to replenish their own spiritual reservoirs to regain energy and strength for their ministry.

Life-giving experiences—strengthening relationships, renewing a sense of call, meeting and serving the neighbor in a new way, finding joy and purpose in a simplified life, traveling to new lands and unfamiliar territories, creating opportunities where members of the congregation can exercise their gifts for ministry—are common themes of these renewal times. Profound discoveries that pastors and their congregations describe as “life-changing events” occur as they participate in this program.

Ministry is profoundly important, not only to the people directly served, but also to the larger community and society. The clergy renewal program honors pastors and congregations. Lilly Endowment and Christian Theological Seminary have learned a great deal about what pastors and congregations value in this program. Some of those insights, in the form of comments from previous grantees, follow: 

The program was life-changing. It will give shape to the next 10 years of my ministry at the church and in the community. It has enlarged my vision and renewed my call and commitment.

The most prevalent impact on the congregation was that we bonded beyond any expectations we could have had. By working together and intentionally putting God and the church first, we grew as one and accomplished things that we were not sure were possible.

It was a spiritual experience—one that leaves me permanently affected and marked. It has changed who I am: to trust, relax, share, and celebrate more.

While I returned rested and refreshed, I also returned highly charged and somehow more resolved. It has been an amazing and life-changing journey.

Eligibility Requirements

The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary is a competitive grants program open to Christian congregations that have an ordained pastor who has an M.Div. degree from a theological seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ats.edu). CTS plans to award as many as 125 grants to the congregations that submit the most outstanding applications.

Our Next Step

Submit and pray!