About the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs

The Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seek 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. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor’s heart sing.

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, are included in this material to help clergy and congregations “think outside the box” in creating a time of refreshment and renewal.

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.

Pastors serve a variety of roles in their privileged position at the center of congregational life: preacher, teacher, spiritual guide, pastoral visitor, friend, and 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.

Christian Theological Seminary will provide grants 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. A portion 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. We have learned from previous grantees that the ideal renewal program is an uninterrupted time of three to four months.

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.

Read the National Program application material, or the Indiana Program application material for more information. We warmly invite your application!