College launches Project on Rural Ministry

Grove City College received a nearly $1 million grant to help establish the Project on Rural Ministry, an outreach to support pastors in rural areas as they serve their congregations and communities.

The $989,582 grant is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

The Project on Rural Ministry will focus on the unique circumstances of pastors serving rural and small town communities in western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. It is grounded in the fundamental insight that Christian colleges are uniquely positioned to amplify the voices, strengthen the networks and facilitate the ongoing learning of local pastors and ministry leaders.

“Grove City College strives to be a good institutional neighbor. This program provides an excellent opportunity to champion rural ministries while addressing their specific strengths and challenges. Through it, we can leverage the interdisciplinary resources of Grove City College to support and encourage the thriving of pastors and the social, economic and spiritual renewal of our rural communities,” Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said. He added, “We are grateful for the financial support of the Lilly Endowment and are looking forward to building a strong program to support men and women who are called to serve the church communities that are so vital to our rural areas.”

The Project aims to bolster the partnership of college, church and community by convening three groups of 10 pastors residing within a 150-mile radius of Grove City, Pa. During the five-year life of the grant, these pastors will participate in opening and closing conferences, three regional gatherings, online networking and a series of peer-to-peer site visits alongside other pastors in their group. In addition, the Project will facilitate innovative collaborations between faculty, students and churches by funding 30 student internships as well as 30 service learning projects. An interdisciplinary team of faculty will also visit each church to address a wide array of economic, social and ministry challenges frequently experienced in rural areas.

From its inception, the College’s leaders have sought to prepare citizens for service to society, a commitment evidenced today by robust student involvement in community service as well as the College’s service-learning initiative. Educational support for area clergy has been a characteristic of the College from its earliest years, when its first president, Isaac Ketler, instituted a summer Bible conference to train local ministers. The Project on Rural Ministry extends and reimagines these institutional legacies, furthering Grove City College’s commitment to love of neighbor and advancing the common good.

The Project will be led by Executive Director Seulgi Byun, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at Grove City College.

“The Project on Rural Ministry is expected to unite students and faculty from multiple academic departments with regional clergy, allowing our students to explore their personal and professional callings and our pastoral partners to benefit from the expertise, enthusiasm and energy of the Grove City College community. At the same time, we want to listen and learn from the churches in our region. We couldn’t be more excited about the potential impact of this grant,” Byun said.

Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic foundation that supports community development, education and religion, is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative. Grove City College is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

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

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for Religion, said. “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 the Project on Rural Ministry, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Grove City College is a highly ranked, national Christian liberal arts and sciences college that equips students to pursue their unique callings through an academically excellent and Christ-centered learning and living experience distinguished by a commitment to affordability and promotion of the Christian worldview, the foundations of a free society and the love of neighbor. Established in 1876, the College is a pioneer in independent private education and accepts no federal funds. It offers students degrees in more than 60 majors on a picturesque 180-acre campus north of Pittsburgh, Pa. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Grove City College is routinely ranked as one of the country’s top colleges by U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and others based on academic quality and superior outcomes.

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 sons Eli and J.K. Jr. - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking 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.

Click here for more about the Project on Rural Ministry.

College launches Project on Rural Ministry

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