Project Thrive

The Lilly Endowment Inc.* has invited organizations that support Christian congregations to participate in a national initiative to strengthen churches by helping them adapt to rapid changes affecting their ministries.

“Many religious leaders and researchers have noted that significant social and cultural trends are disrupting established patterns of congregational life,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These trends range from the increasing number of young people who claim no religious affiliation to a growing reliance on digital media for communicating with each other.”

The Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative seeks to help churches understand how these changes influence their ministries so they can respond faithfully to God’s call to nurture the religious lives of their members and serve their communities.

The initiative is designed to encourage organizations that work with Christian congregations to create new or strengthen existing programs to help churches understand their changing contexts; gain clarity about their values and mission; and cultivate vibrant Christian practices.

Through the Thriving Congregations Initiative, the Endowment is interested in supporting a variety of approaches that help congregations:

  • Explore the changing social and cultural contexts in which they exist, including understanding the characteristics, interests, history and challenges of their communities
  • Find clarity about their values and mission and articulate how they are called to love God and serve those in their congregations, neighborhoods, regions and across the world
  • Cultivate Christian practices that are rooted in the congregations’ theological or ecclesial traditions. These practices could include hospitality, testimony, sabbath rest, liturgy, music, serving those in need, scripture study and sacraments, among others.

Enhancing congregational vitality is a grantmaking priority of the Endowment rooted in the conviction that local congregations are the primary form of Christian community. They are places where Christians gather to worship; where their children and youth are formed in faith traditions; and where they extend care to one another, to neighbors and to people around the world. Therefore, the Endowment supports efforts that help congregations address the challenges they face.

Visit the Endowment’s website to learn more and view the Thriving Congregations

After receiving the Lilly Endowment grant funds, in January of this year Belmont University invited St. Philip’s Episcopal Church to participate in a Lilly Endowment funded ministry project that will support the work of 18-20 churches in the inner core of Nashville. Over the next five years, Project Thrive will work closely with St. Philip’s and the other participating churches to help examine missional focus, leadership structure and development, community needs, classic Christian practices, and congregational demographics. They will utilize consultants, seminars, retreats, workshops, peer learning groups, research assistants , and pther tools to aid in this work. Belmont has also partnered with The Center for Healthy Churches ( to provide key leadership in those congregational conversations.

Project Thrive seeks to help St. Philip’s THRIVE! The program will not offer a one-size-fits-all plan or program that says, “Do this and you will thrive!” but rather will work closely with us to discover our particular needs, vision and identity so that together we can first determine what “thriving” might resemble at St. Philip’s and second, help us discover some ways to make that happen. This is an extraordinary opportunity for us and we are excited about being a Project Thrive Congregation!

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

lilly endowment inc logo - St. Philip's Episcopal Church

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While gifts of stock remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. The Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. Grantmaking in religion seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians, primarily by 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.