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Northwest University Receives Significant Lily Endowment Grant

Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, has been awarded a grant of nearly $1 million for establishing a program for church planters.
Northwest University has received a grant of $999,708 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish the new Project for Thriving Church Planters. This program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative, which has the goal of helping pastors thrive in church leadership and increase the vitality of the congregations they serve.

The Project for Thriving Church Planters will launch in 2021 on the Seattle-area [Kirkland] campus of Northwest University. Over the course the next five years, Pentecostal church planters in four distinct populations (Hispanic leaders, female leaders, African-American leaders, and leaders serving in rural contexts) will take part in two-year cohort experiences. Each cohort group will benefit from high-level mentoring with a veteran leader, peer connections with other church planters, a retreat, a site visit experience, and more. Due to the generosity of Lilly Endowment, participating church planters — both from within the Pacific Northwest and nationally — will be able to participate for no cost. All programs expenses, including travel, food, and accommodations, will be covered. Upon completion of the program, each church planter will also receive a $1,000 stipend to contribute to their efforts at thriving.

The purpose of the Project for Thriving Church Planters is to serve the mission of the Church by helping to further invest in the efforts and callings of church planters in contexts featuring unique opportunities and challenges. Helping these key leaders thrive will not only increase their well-being and ministry productivity but help to further build upon the rich diversity of the body of Christ.

The Project for Thriving Church Planters will be led by co-directors Earl Creps (director of the Center for Leadership Studies) and Joshua Ziefle (dean of the College of Ministry), in addition to a program leader who will be hired in the new year. The Project will also make use of grant funding to engage in significant research related to church planters, design and teach a Northwest University course around the connecting to our findings, and host an on-campus conference featuring a nationally-known leader in the field.

“I am excited for the potential of the Project for Thriving Church Planters,” stated Creps, “Northwest has always been involved in developing church planters, but this grant marks a new chapter in our endeavors. With Lilly Endowment’s support we can assist in the personal thriving of many more planters while also growing in diversity and relevance.”

President Joseph Castleberry concurred: “At Northwest University we are committed to carry the call of God wherever it may lead. I believe that our focus for this planning grant — church planting — is a significant aspect of this mission. We hope that with the help of the Lilly Endowment, Northwest University will be able to serve pastors and church leaders who are following the leading of God in this way.”

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Northwest University’s Project for Thriving Church Planters initiative, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”