Lilly Endowment launches national initiative to strengthen Christian preaching

Lilly Endowment Inc. is launching a new initiative to help Christian pastors strengthen their abilities to proclaim the gospel in more engaging and effective ways. The ultimate aim is to foster and support preaching that better inspires, encourages and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

Through the Compelling Preaching Initiative, interested eligible organizations may submit proposals for up to $1.25 million to be used for up to a five-year period to design and implement programs that will help pastors enhance their practices of preaching to reach individuals both within and beyond congregations.

These efforts may include, among others, assisting pastors in utilizing different forms of communication to share the Christian message more effectively.

“At many points in history, Christian preachers have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “They have taken the gospel message into fields and homes, and used print, radio, television and other new technologies and media to expand the reach of their ministries. Many religious leaders believe that churches may now be at another inflection point when preachers may again need to adapt to changing communication practices and forms of media to ensure that the gospel message is accessible for all audiences. With this new initiative we ask, ‘What needs to be done today?’”

In this open and competitive initiative, the Endowment anticipates making approximately 60 grants. Proposals are due by May 15, 2023. The Endowment expects to announce the grants in fall 2023.  The Endowment is making $75 million available for this endeavor.  Learn about the request for proposals here.

Eligible organizations are those with public charity tax status in the United States that include, but are not limited to, theological schools, colleges and universities, church resourcing organizations, publishing houses, national and regional denominational organizations, and church-related camps and retreat centers.

The Compelling Preaching Initiative builds on work the Endowment supported earlier this year through grants made to 32 organizations across the nation.  These organizations are implementing highly creative and innovative programs to help pastors understand better how individuals hear and respond to messages today and learn ways to make preaching more effective.  They have inspired the Endowment to expand the initiative. Grounded in the theologies and practices of a broad spectrum of Christian communities, these programs are:

  • Helping preachers effectively reach and engage increasingly diverse audiences both within and beyond congregations.
  • Working with preachers to help them better understand and use traditional (e.g., pulpit preaching, writing) and non-traditional (e.g. digital media) forms of communication to reach a variety of audiences.
  • Developing educational and peer learning experiences, spiritual formation opportunities, digital resources and other offerings to help preachers deepen their understanding of the gospel and the needs of audiences today.

In addition to the 32 grants made in the invitational round of the initiative, the Endowment has made a $6.53 million grant to Calvin University to help it launch the Compelling Preaching Coordination Program. Based at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the coordination program will facilitate mutual learning among current and future grantees in the initiative as they share insights, resources and best practices.

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