LTS Receives $1 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lexington Theological Seminary (LTS) has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support new efforts to strengthen the vitality of congregations. The LTS program, Linking Student Practices with Congregational Learning, will build upon the connections between seminary-based education and the student ministerial experiences that happen at LTS congregational sites.

LTS will partner with 20 congregations to clarify and articulate their missions and core theological practices in light of their changing contexts. Seminarians will serve in the participating congregations to experience first-hand how churches can work to adapt their ministries to flourish. This immersive method of teaching will help congregational leaders and seminarians gain a clearer sense of their roles in thriving congregations.

Objectives for the new program are as follows:

1. Congregations will obtain a clearer understanding of their identity and thus articulate a clearer sense of their mission as a congregation.

2. Congregations more clearly perceive the role of their pastor in the development and sustaining of a congregation’s identity, vision and mission.

3. Congregations will learn how to measure progress for greater ecclesial effectiveness in their faith communities.

Rev. Erin Cash will serve as program director for the project. Rev. Cash earned her M.Div. from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and is a doctoral student at LTS. She serves as the Director of Admissions at LTS and is in her second term as moderator of the Christian Church in Kentucky.

“LTS is grateful for the opportunity to engage congregations in their contexts to better understand how they live out their mission,” said Dr. Charisse L. Gillett, LTS President. “I look forward to Erin’s leadership as we resource and strengthen congregations. The seminary is deeply appreciative of the Lilly Endowment Inc. for this grant and looks forward to learning from and with congregations.”

Rev. Doug Lofton, LTS Board of Trustees Chair, said, “We are truly appreciative to Lilly Endowment as it supports a long-standing core focus of Lexington Theological Seminary. For generations of students there has been a strong tie to the practical connection between classroom and local church ministry. As a graduate of LTS in 1981, my 40-year ministry career was strongly guided by a three-year opportunity to live out the classroom in a local church, which served as a student placement for nearly 150 years. In our current non-residential program design, the mandated student connection to a local church and a local mentor is the next generation of the intentional practice of classroom learning defined in a congregational context.”

In 2018, LTS received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment as part of its Thriving in Ministry initiative. Thriving in Ministry is focused on supporting clergy mentoring, peer groups, lay education and programs that support overall pastoral flourishing.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Its grant-making in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.

Lexington Theological Seminary is a covenant seminary of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), offering master’s and doctoral degrees and continuing education opportunities both online and onsite to clergy and lay leaders. It is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. For more information about educational opportunities at LTS, contact Rev. Erin Cash, Director of Admissions, at