Application period open for pastor-sabbatical grants

By Megan K. Mertz

Congregations and their pastors have until April 15 to apply for grants of up to $50,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. for the 2015 National and Indiana Clergy Renewal Programs.

lilly-INThe two programs — one for congregations in Indiana and one for congregations in the other 49 states — offer grants for pastors to take a sabbatical from ministry to “engage in a period of renewal and reflection.” Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used by the congregation to cover interim pastoral expenses and for activities associated with the renewal program.

Pastors and congregations work together to design their renewal programs, which are required at the time of application. Any Christian congregation served by a pastor with a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools is eligible to apply.

For application brochures and other information about the programs, visit

“Pastors play an indispensable role in guiding the work of congregations and the daily demands of leadership are unending,” Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice-president for religion at the Lilly Endowment, said in a news release about the 2014 award recipients. “Lilly Endowment is pleased that this program enables hard-working pastors to step away briefly from their ministerial responsibilities for rest and renewal.”

One of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s award recipients is Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Ind., and its pastor, the Rev. David Petersen. They received one of these grants in 2008.

Petersen’s renewal plan included travel to reconnect with family across the United States, as well as a family trip to Germany for a large board-game convention. German-style games are a special interest of the Petersen family.

Redeemer received $15,000 of the grant to cover expenses for a vacancy pastor during the sabbatical, to buy a board-game library for the congregation and to hold family game nights at the church.

“It was an incredible gift,” Petersen said of his three-month sabbatical.

“As the sabbatical wound down, I was ready to go back to work. That was very insightful to me,” he continued. “It made me realize how much I enjoyed the work of the ministry and being involved in the congregation.”

Like Petersen, other LCMS award recipients have used the grant money to travel, volunteer or pursue personal interests.

“A sabbatical is most helpful in giving pastors time for prayerful reflection and rededication to the task of pastoral care,” said the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission. “It is a blessing that the Lilly Endowment provides this opportunity, and many LCMS pastors have participated over the years.”

In 2015, up to 25 grants will be awarded to Indiana congregations and as many as 125 grants will be given to congregations in the other 49 states. Recipients will be notified in late August.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly and his two sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., with gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.

Since Lilly Endowment introduced the Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations in 1990 and the National Clergy Renewal Program grants in 2000, more than 1,900 congregations across the nation have participated in the programs.

Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer with LCMS Communications.

Posted Dec. 23, 2014

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