In an effort to help various Christian ministries adapt to the changing culture, including technology issues and membership decline, the Indiana-based Lilly Endowment has given $93 million in grants to 92 Christian organizations.

The Endowment announced the grants through its Thriving Congregations Initiative in late September, with beneficiaries including seminaries, congregations, and regional church bodies from diverse theological backgrounds.

Specific recipients include Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Dakota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Fuller Theological Seminary, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, and the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, among others.

Judith Cebula, communications director for the Lilly Endowment, explained to The Christian Post that the grants came as a way to help ministries handle “the rapidly changing contexts in which congregations exist.”

The Endowment launched the initiative to encourage organizations that care about the wellbeing of congregations to find ways to help congregations strengthen their ministries so people can deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world,” said Cebula.

Cebula also told CP that the grants were “a competitive initiative,” meaning that “eligible organizations responded to Lilly Endowment’s request for proposals.”

“After careful review, Lilly Endowment chose to make grants to 92 organizations that presented the most promising ideas to address the aims of the Thriving Congregations Initiative,” she continued.

In recent years, much has been made about the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans and the decline of membership and attendance for most church bodies

Cebula noted that “technology, decrease in traditional worship attendance and participation in other ministries” are part of a “variety of challenges” for churches and ministries. 

“It is the role of the organizations to help the congregations name the challenges and respond to the challenges, which could also include religious disaffiliation, challenges created by the pandemic, and specific concerns of their particular communities, cities, and neighborhoods,” she added. 

“Responses could include things such as developing their worship services, attending to social issues, building intergenerational relationships, serving people most in need, and many other possibilities.”

This is not the first time that Lilly has aided churches and ministries. In 2005, for example, the Endowment gave grants of up to $45,000 to 124 pastors to help with sabbaticals.

The Christian Post reached out to a few of the recipients of the grants in November to see about their goals, the current status of their efforts, and what they viewed as a “reimagined” church.

The Christian Post reached out to a few of the recipients of the grants in November to see about their goals, the current status of their efforts, and what they viewed as a “reimagined” church.

The Christian Post reached out to a few of the recipients of the grants in November to see about their goals, the current status of their efforts, and what they viewed as a “reimagined” church.

The Christian Post reached out to a few of the recipients of the grants in November to see about their goals, the current status of their efforts, and what they viewed as a “reimagined” church.

Tom Krattenmaker, director of communications at Yale Divinity School, explained to CP that the program will involve working with 40 churches in Connecticut over the span of five years.

This effort will include helping to “support them in their efforts to engage in self-study, examine their local social and cultural contexts, learn about creative new options, and explore what models will work best for them in the post-pandemic world.”

Krattenmaker explained that the grant period will go from January of next year until December 2025, with the 40 congregations for the program still to be selected.

When asked by CP what he believed a “reimagined church” would look like, Krattenmaker responded that it is not ours to say.”