WINONA LAKE – Grace Theological Seminary received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish the Charis Collective for Thriving Leaders.

The project is funded through Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving Ministry Initiative, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry, according to a news release from Grace.

“It is estimated that 80-85% of churches have plateaued or are declining in our nation today,” Dean of Grace Theological Seminary Dr. Freddy Cardoza explained. “And we know that there is a direct link between the leader’s health and the health of the church. If the leaders aren’t doing well, then neither are their churches. This is why the Center for Thriving Leaders will be devoted to inspire, instruct and inform today’s church leaders.”

The Charis Collective (CC) for Thriving Leaders will facilitate mentor-based cohorts, annual events, ongoing training events and academic programs geared toward pastors. Leaders from the CC will participate on an advisory board for the center and lend their expertise as cohort mentors, speakers and contributors. As a result, church planters, small church revitalization pastors and pastors-in-training will develop skills, competencies and relationships that will equip them for thriving in ministry.

“This is so much more than just a grant,” said Cardoza. “We know that if we change the lives of the shepherds, then we change the lives of the sheep. It’s an exciting initiative – please pray for it! Pray that God would bring the right people to the program and pray for His favor, that we may see rebirth and renewal in small to mid-sized churches all across North America.”

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years, the release 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 Grace Theological Seminary’s Charis Collective for Thriving Leaders, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

For more information about the Charis Collective for Thriving Leaders, contact Freddy Cardoza at freddy.cardoza@grace.edu. For more information about Grace Theological Seminary, visit seminary.grace.edu.