News and Press Releases

C3 Press Release

October 5, 2020

TMF Receives Lilly Grant for Courageous Congregations Collaborative

Building Adaptive Muscles to Help Congregations Thrive

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF) has received a grant of $1 million to help launch its Courageous Congregations Collaborative (C3). The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other, and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

The grant will enable TMF to deepen and expand its work with congregations. TMF’s Leadership Ministry has identified ‘five adaptive muscles’ congregations must develop in order to thrive. Using a cohort-based model, TMF will gather congregations by affinity to learn and experience grieving well, discerning purpose, neighboring, decentralizing power, and expanding imagination. Facilitators will walk alongside congregations as they flex these muscles in their own context and develop the discipline to regularly stretch these muscles for continued growth.

“This is an apocalyptic time, and though that word prompts end of the world images, the actual meaning of apocalypse in Greek is to reveal, to uncover, to lay bare,” observes Rev. Dr. Blair Thompson-White, director of TMF’s Leadership Ministry and C3. “This year has uncovered changes that need to be made, and that is absolutely what is happening in the church. We need transformational change in our congregations, and that requires courage. The congregations who participate in C3 have the courage to engage in the kinds of conversations that inspire new ways of being the church in the world. Together, we will learn and experience ‘five adaptive muscles’ that must be stretched and strengthened in order to become the church God imagines. This is not a program that ends with a to-do list. This is a transformational experience for congregations that will lead to sustained thriving.”

TMF is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.

About TMF

Texas Methodist Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the Church to achieve its God-appointed mission, and living our values of servanthood, integrity and competence. TMF is the largest United Methodist foundation in the country offering assistance to United Methodists through investments, loans, grants, leadership platforms, gift planning, and endowment services. TMF serves the six United Methodist conferences throughout Texas and New Mexico. TMF is based in Austin, Texas. To learn more, please visit tmf-fdn.org.