Our Purpose

Thriving Congregations

Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving Congregations Initiative aims to help congregations strengthen their ministries so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.

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Overview

Reassessing, adapting ministries to new and emerging contexts

In all, 115 charitable organizations were awarded grants of up to $1 million each to help congregations adapt to changing social and cultural contexts, clarify their values and mission, and draw on Christian practices. Leadership Education at Duke Divinity supports and networks these grantees and shares what they are learning.

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Our Commitments

What makes congregations flourish?

Local congregations are the primary form of Christian community. Those that thrive share three characteristics.

Contextual knowledge

Relational and relevant ministries emerge from understanding rapidly changing communities.

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Mission clarity

A strong sense of identity and values draws from a church’s theological and ecclesial tradition.

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Vibrant practices

Common rituals help congregations effectively address new challenges and nurture spiritual vitality.

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Lilly endowment inc. 2020 annual report

‘The Times They Are A-Changin’

Shifting demographics, social disruptions move congregations to explore how to remain relevant and serve their communities

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Project Directory

Explore our grantees

Grantees include colleges and universities, theological schools, denominational agencies, individual congregations and other faith-based organizations and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions.

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Ecclesia Ministries

Common Inspiration is a powerful new initiative that deeply integrates the current life, programs, joys, and challenges of Ecclesia Ministries’ unique homeless congregation with housed churches from across Christian denominations…

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Dakotas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

The Dakotas Connection Initiative helps enhance the Conference’s successful ministries and provides resources and platforms to ensure that vital ministry and community impact are happening in its rural communities. New…

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China Evangelical Seminary North America

CESNA is taking the next step in helping congregations thrive by engaging them proactively, strategically, contextually, and communally. Specifically, CESNA hopes to empower Chinese-American churches with congregational pastors who have…

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Center for Public Justice

The Center for Public Justice (CPJ) — a Christian, independent, and nonpartisan organization — and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) — representing over 40,000 evangelical Hispanic congregations —…

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Calvary Lutheran Church

Calvary Lutheran Church is a thriving 2,000-plus-member congregation in Alexandria, a rural community in northwestern Minnesota. With a clarity of mission and bold leadership, Calvary has doubled in worship attendance…

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Calvary Lutheran Church

Calvary Lutheran Church is a thriving 2,000-plus-member congregation in Alexandria, a rural community in northwestern Minnesota. With a clarity of mission and bold leadership, Calvary has doubled in worship attendance…

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Stories & Resources

What we are learning

Discover stories, essays and interviews about topics related to congregational life, including racial healing and justice, economic models, innovative ministry, leadership and more.

Kelly Brown Douglas: Easter hope means being bold about injustice

In her recent book, Kelly Brown Douglas speaks about how resurrection hope means working toward a future where Black life can flourish.

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Shifting politics and boosted technology were taking hold in some congregations pre-pandemic

While congregational life for many has been altered in the last two years by COVID-19, the latest iteration of the National Congregations Study shows that changes were already underway in faith communities.

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How do I know whether my church is ready to innovate?

Creative churches don’t panic when things go wrong. They pivot. But how do you know whether your church is prepared for it? writes an innovation consultant.

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Welcoming the stranger: A church ministry blossoms into a nonprofit that walks with refugees

Almost 30 years after beginning its ministry to those who’ve fled their home countries, a San Diego church has seen its community strengthened by shared leadership and a willingness to adapt.

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In the face of pandemic food insecurity, one church takes on the ministry of giving away groceries

As members of their community faced hunger this past year, Virginia’s Mount Olive Baptist Church focused on finding and distributing quality food for free.

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