ESR Receives Lilly Endowment Grant to Improve the Economic Well-Being of Future Ministers

Earlham School of Religion has received a $248,948 grant as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers.  It is one of 67 theological schools across the country to receive this funding.

Personal financial pressures are severely limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders.  To help address this issue, Lilly Endowment created the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers.  The initiative’s aim is to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors.

"This grant positions ESR to research and respond to three critical areas: the current financial realities faced by our students; the vocational trends that will likely frame our graduates' employment opportunities; and the changing landscape of religious life in America," stated ESR Dean Jay Marshall. "This work will not only help us to better serve our students; it will better equip us as a seminary educating for 21st century ministry."

All theological schools fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada were invited to submit grant proposals.  ESR will use its funding to:

  • Give students access – and incentives – to enhance their knowledge of loans and debt, financial planning, and tax law affecting ministry to better prepare them for economic realities upon graduation.
  • Launch a new Faith Forward Initiative to both study and foster innovation in ministry broadly and within ESR as an institution, including a think tank research group, website, and conference.
  • Launch a Bi-Vocational Ministry research effort in collaboration with regional partner organizations, including interviews, spiritual formation, vocational discernment, and new certificate programs.
  • Launch an Entrepreneurial Ministry certificate program, designed to equip theologically and practically those whose calls to ministry beckon them beyond the usual roles of pastor.

“Pastors are indispensable spiritual leaders and guides, and the quality of pastoral leadership is critical to the health and vitality of congregations,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment.

“Theological schools play a critical role in preparing pastors and are uniquely positioned to address some of the economic challenges they face,” Coble said.  “The Endowment hopes that these grants will support broad efforts to improve the financial circumstances facing pastoral leaders so that pastors can serve their congregations more joyfully and effectively,” said Coble. 

About Lilly Endowment Inc.:
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli —through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.  The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.  Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.  It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.  More information can be found at