Gustavus Awarded $1 Million Grant to Support Continuing Education for Pastors

The grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will support pastors from southern Minnesota in continuous leadership development.
Posted on November 26th, 2018 by

Gustavus Adolphus College has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the continuing education and leadership development of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastors in southern Minnesota. The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative. The initiative supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

The grant to Gustavus will greatly expand the College’s Pastor-to-Pastor program to create a framework for professional development among clergy, known as the Continuous Growth Pathway program.

“Gustavus has been collaborating with pastors for 15 years to offer meaningful continuing education experiences for clergy. We are excited because this grant will bring to life the comprehensive leadership development structure the pastors have been envisioning and further increase the peer-to-peer support resources they need,” said the Rev. Grady St. Dennis, who serves as the Gustavus director of church relations and leader of the Continuous Growth Pathway program.

The Rev. Grady St. Dennis will lead the Continuous Growth Pathway program.

The program is unique in its ambitious plan to provide a comprehensive menu of resources for ELCA clergy from the Southeastern Minnesota and Southwestern Minnesota Synods that spans the spectrum of ministry experience from those in their first call to those who have been in pastoral ministry for decades.

“For pastors serving in southern Minnesota, most of the continuing education resources require driving long distances or are limited to an online experience. I am especially pleased that we will be able to bring so many additional resources to clergy serving in southern Minnesota,” St. Dennis said. “I am excited for what this support will mean not only for the pastors but also for the congregations they serve. We have seen that the more you surround the pastor with support and leadership development resources, the more likely the congregation expresses a sense of health and strength of community.”

Gustavus is strongly rooted in the ELCA tradition, and the Continuous Growth Pathway program will join such College offerings as a Daily Sabbath service, support for a variety of faith-based student groups, a new multifaith center, and the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics, a camp for high school students that takes place each summer on campus.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative to a total of 78 organizations located in 29 states. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.  Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Gustavus’s Continuous Growth Pathway, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

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 Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


One Comment

  1. Darcy E Winter says:

    Great work Grady!