About the Center for Pastoral Excellence

The Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) is a strategic initiative that addresses the long arc of ministry—from vocational discernment to seminary training to sustaining outstanding ministers and pastors throughout their lifetimes.

The Center was established in the summer of 2012 with generous initial funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. It houses an array of programs offering a flexible and responsive model for theological education.

“This will be a comprehensive and lifelong approach to pastoral education that will be distinctive among other theological education programs in the United States,” says CTS President Matthew Myer Boulton.

The Center's five initiatives include, The Discipleship Project enrolls 12 promising students each year in a cohort-based, three-year, master of divinity program with full scholarships, living stipends and immersive learning experiences including travel for site visits to thriving congregations across the country and around the world. The project is led by CTS faculty mentors.

The New Media Project helps religious leaders think theologically about technology and new media through research, theological reflection, writing and training. The New Media Project moved to CTS from its previous home at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

The Center for Pastoral Excellence administers the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at CTS, which have provided grants to congregations to support pastoral renewal programs for the last 13 years. Two competitive programs—one for Indiana congregations and the other for congregations in the other 49 states—serve hundreds of communities across the country.

The Center also supports the Lilly Endowment’s Pastoral Excellence Network, which launched in January 2013. The network resources new clergy residency programs as well as peer learning communities for clergy, clergy groups, and the institutions that form them.

The Academy of Preaching and Celebration is the latest initiative to be developed. It is led by Rev. Dr. Frank Thomas, who has joined the CTS faculty in 2013. A premier leader in preaching and African American traditions, Thomas will lead an initiative focused on excellence in preaching and worship.

Together the initiatives of the Center for Pastoral Excellence are more than the sum of their parts. We hope they will inform and inspire not only each other, but the larger CTS community and Christian communities across the United States.

A word about this site

We invite you to explore the many offerings on this website as well as the website of our home, Christian Theological Seminary. Discover each initiative on its own terms and experience the connections between them. View the aggregate news, blogs, events, and videos of all initiatives on the Center’s home page. You may sign up for RSS feeds or to receive newsletters for each initiative or for all of them. Read about the leaders and participants. Join the network. Follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter.


Christian Theological Seminary Announces 29 Indiana Congregations Awarded Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program Grants

Oct 03, 2016 | Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs
Christian Theological Seminary, in its role of administering the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, has awarded 29 grants to congregations in 17 Indiana communities. The 2016 Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations allows congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from ministerial duties and responsibilities. Pastors use the respite from congregational leadership for reflection and renewal, including travel, scholarly research and immersive experiences with various cultures and traditions.

Congregations awarded the Clergy Renewal Program grants nominated their pastors to receive the honor. Pastors in the 2016 program lead Protestant and nondenominational congregations. Each recipient, in consultation with the congregation, determines how he or she will use the grant to replenish, restore and renew his or her ministry. Travel to domestic and international destinations and journeys into nature are popular activities for grant recipients. One pastor plans to travel to the Holy Land in order to meditate on the life and journeys of Christ and the early church. Another pastor with an interest in global climate change is traveling in order to immerse himself in various extreme climates across the United States and Canada as a way of sparking his creativity in addressing creation care.  

In addition to travel as a form of renewal, some pastors will use their time away from congregational leadership to engage in new spiritual disciplines, focus on time with loved ones, and study topics that renew their excitement for preaching and congregational leadership. 

Since Lilly Endowment introduced the Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations and National Clergy Renewal Program grants in 1999 and 2000, more than 2,300 congregations across the nation have participated in the programs. In the 2016 round of funding, Indiana congregations received grants totaling more than $1.3 million. The grants recognize the tremendous amount of energy, time and leadership that pastors invest in their congregations. 

“Lilly Endowment intends for this program to enable pastors to live for a while at a different pace and in a new environment, in Sabbath time and space,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We can think of no better way to honor these hardworking, faithful men and women than to help them experience personal growth and spiritual renewal in ways that they themselves design and find meaningful. We regularly hear that these renewal experiences are transformative for pastors, their families and their congregations.”

Congregations were invited to apply for program grants of up to $50,000. The application process was participatory in nature, involving congregations in the design and development of the renewal experiences. Up to $15,000 of the grant could be allocated to fund interim pastoral leadership, as well as renewal activities within the congregation. Pastors were encouraged to include their families in the renewal activities.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, noted that the Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations leverages the reciprocal dynamics of support, trust and encouragement reflective of healthy congregations. “The program is designed to respect the innate human need for times of service and replenishment. It provides a means for congregations to express appreciation for their leader’s service and respect for his or her health and energy for continued ministry,” Saler said. 

Christian Theological Seminary’s Center for Pastoral Excellence was selected in 2012 to administer the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs. “At a time when society is experiencing unprecedented levels of change at ever increasing speeds, it is rewarding to offer programs that recognize the value of retreat and renewal,” Saler said. “We are honored and privileged to work with Lilly Endowment in its support of congregational leaders.”

Award Recipients:

Anderson – Bethany Church of Anderson, Inc., the Rev. Robert Bell

Bloomington – St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Rev. Lyle McKee

Brazil – Grace Chapel of Brazil, Inc., the Rev. Timothy Russell

Carmel – Mercy Road Church, Inc., the Rev. Josh Husmann
Columbus – Ogilville Christian Church, the Rev. Virgil Clotfelter

Evansville – St. Peter's Highland UCC, the Rev. Brian Buschkill

Fort Wayne – Saint Joseph United Methodist Church, the Rev. Russell Abel

Fortville – New Life Christian Fellowship, Inc., the Rev. Mark Adcock

Goshen – Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, the Rev. Andrew Wollman

Indianapolis – Acton United Methodist Church, the Rev. Matthew Stultz

Indianapolis – College Park Church, Inc., the Rev. Eric Anderson

Indianapolis – Faith Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Charlotte Lohrenz

Indianapolis – First Mennonite Church, the Rev. Shannon Dycus

Indianapolis – Indiana Full Gospel Korean Church of the Rock, the Rev. Youngsoo Kim

Indianapolis – Linwood Christian Church, the Rev. Carolyn Watkins

Indianapolis – Northminster Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Teri Thomas

Indianapolis – Northview Church of the Brethren, the Rev. Robert Miller

Indianapolis – Resurrection Lutheran Church, the Rev. Mitchell Phillips

Indianapolis – The Movie Theater Church, the Rev. Ethan Maple

Indianapolis – Vineyard Community Church – Indianapolis, the Rev. Stephen Gooder

Jeffersonville – St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Revs. Donald & Nancy Woodworth-Hill

Muncie – First Baptist Church Muncie, the Rev. Wade Allen

Noblesville – First Presbyterian Church of Noblesville, the Rev. Eric Gale

Noblesville – Genesis Church, the Rev. Paul Mumaw
South Bend – Crest Manor Church of the Brethren, the Rev. Bradley Bohrer

Syracuse – Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Rev. Wendolyn Piano

Terre Haute – World Gospel Church, the Rev. John (Alfy) Austin

Washington – Bethany Christian Church, the Rev. Matthew Merold

Zionsville – Eagle Alliance Church, the Rev. Eric Simpson

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
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.  Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.  It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.  More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.

About Christian Theological Seminary

Located in Indianapolis, IN, Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) is a fully accredited ecumenical seminary, open to all, affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  It offers eight graduate-level degree programs, including programs in theology, ministry, and counseling, with specializations in ministries that emphasize the arts and programs for lifelong learning.  More than 30 denominations are represented among CTS faculty and students. Additional information about CTS is available at www.cts.edu

More News