St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf awarded $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative

St. Olaf College has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish its “Nourishing Vocation: Re-Imagining Congregational Callings in Unimaginable Times” program on campus. The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative, which aims to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to local communities and the world.

Through “Nourishing Vocation,” St. Olaf will work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and better understand the communities that they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

“We are honored by the vision and generosity of Lilly Endowment, enabling us to bring the Nourishing Vocation program to congregations across the nation while strengthening vocational engagement on campus,” says St. Olaf Vice President for Mission Jo Beld. “We look forward to helping congregations live out a vocational vision that is theologically grounded, shaped by engagement with their diverse communities, and responsive to the forces of change affecting congregations and colleges alike.”

“Nourishing Vocation” will be housed in St. Olaf’s new Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community, which provides opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to connect with each other around questions of belief, purpose, and life choices. The Lutheran Center also engages with the wider church, other communities of faith, and other colleges and universities.

The new initiative will convene regional and national learning communities of congregational leaders who will work with one another and with their congregations to re-imagine mission and ministry in an era of unprecedented change. The hands-on “Nourishing Vocation” curriculum will include collaborative study and reflection, congregational partnerships with community organizations and St. Olaf students, and participation in the St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts. The project will be directed by Beld and a steering committee that includes the director of the Lutheran Center, the college ministry senior pastor, the director of broadcast media services, the assistant director of academic civic engagement, and faculty members in religion and music.

We are honored by the vision and generosity of Lilly Endowment, enabling us to bring the Nourishing Vocation program to congregations across the nation while strengthening vocational engagement on campus.St. Olaf Vice President for Mission Jo Beld

St. Olaf College is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches along a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” says Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a 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 exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion 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 their pastoral and lay leadership.