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Evangel Receives $5 Million Endowment Grant

The Lilly Endowment Grant will be used to develop affordable and adaptable theological training for current and aspiring ministers at the AG Theological Seminary.
Evangel University has been awarded a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop and expand affordable and adaptable theological training for current and aspiring ministers at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), the embedded seminary of the university. This is one of the largest gifts in the university’s history. The “AG Ministry Leaders of Tomorrow” initiative will expand a partnership between EU and the Assemblies of God (AG).

“Together, the AG, Evangel, and AGTS will partner to identify, equip, release, and develop future ministers,” said Mike Rakes, Evangel University president. “We are excited about the transformative impact on our theological school and the privilege of assisting in the development of pastors to serve in churches.”

Through this grant funding, the university and the AG will build pathways to sustainable, robust pastoral education to support the rapid growth of young, diverse Pentecostal churches through three main strategies.

The university will support the AG’s “Called” initiative, a new ministerial advancement program, by hosting national camps where high school students are given the opportunity to learn more about a future career in full-time ministry as they participate in development and mentoring experiences and learning sessions with Theology professors and international ministry leaders.

AGTS and members of the “Called” initiative will also partner on delivering ongoing development resources for issues facing pastors in their varying ministry contexts.

Secondly, the grant funding will allow a targeted focus on affordability by supporting a fundraising campaign to significantly reduce the cost of theological training and degrees. AGTS will leverage key donor relationships across the denomination in a comprehensive fundraising effort. The fundraising will also support scholarships and programs specific to underserved ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The partnership will also provide opportunities to support a process for the denomination’s various geographical and language districts to place graduates in ministry vocations that align with their passion, training, and context.

“Core to the AG Ministry Leaders of Tomorrow initiative is the idea that people of all backgrounds, with the right empowerment, training, and support can lead congregations in powerful service for Christ to the betterment of their communities,” said Rakes.

The grant is part of the third and final phase of Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face in their efforts to prepare pastoral leaders, both now and in the future.

Evangel is one of 16 theological schools that has received grants to fund large-scale, highly collaborative programs through the Pathways Initiative. Lilly Endowment believes these programs have the potential to become models for other schools as they seek to strengthen the way they educate pastors and other congregational leaders.

“Theological schools play an essential role in ensuring that Christian congregations have a steady stream of well-prepared leaders to guide their ministries,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion.

“Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies. These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.

Erin Hedlun

Erin Hedlun is senior director of Marketing and Communications at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.