Asbury Theological Seminary has received a $999,515 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in support of its Thriving in Ministry Initiative. The grant is the result of a two-phased application process. In the first phase, the Seminary applied for and received a planning grant of $50,000 to allow for exploration of potential participation in the initiative. Organizations which were awarded the planning grant were then eligible to apply for the implementation grant to execute their plans.

“This Lilly Endowment grant speaks directly to the heart of Asbury’s mission,” President Timothy C. Tennent said. “Especially as we seek to encourage women leaders and pastors to thrive in their ministries, as well as our ongoing commitment to banded discipleship which creates accountability and transformation among Christian leaders. We are delighted about the multi-year adventure which awaits us in these vital areas.”

Asbury Seminary’s project takes a unique approach that will unfold during a five-year research, piloting, and implementation period. The project will address issues facing clergy from three under-addressed groups and how they can thrive in the initial phases of their ministry. These groups include women pastors in their first five years, Latina/o bi-vocational pastors in their initial years of ministry, and church planters, particularly within multi-cultural settings, during their inaugural period of ministry.

Seminary leaders believe that pastors in these three groups can be served effectively within Asbury Seminary’s theology, ethos, and expertise through the historic Wesleyan practice of connecting small groups together in “bands,” to provide contexts for mutual encouragement, education and continuing peer relationships. The banded-discipleship groups will be facilitated through the NewRoom Bands web-based app through the Seedbed initiative of Asbury Seminary.

The first three years of the grant funding will be used to research and pilot-test the content and banded-discipleship to support the target clergy groups to “thrive in ministry.” During years four and five, the participants will transition to financially supporting the services.

The overall thriving initiative will be housed within the Provost’s Office and under the co-direction of Dr. David Gyertson, Associate Provost, and Dr. Brian Yeich, Assistant Provost. Leadership will be drawn from multiple departments and areas of the Seminary: the Alumni Office and Chapel Office for the women in ministry sub-group; the Asbury Latino Center based on Asbury Seminary’s Florida Dunnam Campus for the bi-vocational Latina/o ministry; and the areas of Leadership, Church Planting, the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, and the Counseling department for the church planting sub-group.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a national 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 and 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

Asbury Theological Seminary is an independent, non-denominational school of theology with campuses in Wilmore, Ky. and Orlando, Fla., as well as an online program and an extension site in Memphis, Tenn. Accredited by The Association of Theological Schools and the Southern Association of Schools – Commission on Colleges, Asbury Seminary has as its mission the preparation of men and women for a variety of ministries in the Wesleyan tradition.