The Metro New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has received a grant of $1,249,991.00 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the “Pilot Studies of the Church’s Future” Program.
The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The initiative aims to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God and live out their Christian faith more fully.
The “Pilot Studies of the Church’s Future” program articulates and strengthens compelling preaching amidst new missional congregations who already know how to reach – and form in faith – young adults, the demographic that seems increasingly absent in traditional mainline Protestant congregations across the United States. The program aims to find these congregations across the ELCA, connect them in a network for peer learning, and provide platforms for sharing their knowledge with the broader church – the ELCA and beyond.
Bishop Paul Egensteiner of the Metro New York Synod said, “This is a transitional time for the Church, and this exciting program helps us move our mission forward within and beyond our denomination, providing meaningful new ways for us, as our Synod’s mission statement suggests, ‘to live like Christ in our communities.’”
“The program is premised on the fact that sprinkled across the country, there are experiments in the church’s future, but they are happening now. While so many congregations wring their hands over aging demographics and declining attendance, these communities know how to be church, and how to preach the Word of God as church, in ways that are compelling to a demographic who increasingly say they are ‘done’ with church,” said Christian Scharen, pastor of St. Lydia’s Dinner Church and director of the program.
The Metro New York Synod of the ELCA is one of 81 organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, and Pentecostal faith communities. Many organizations are rooted in the Black Church and Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.
“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”
Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it 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 and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.