Presbyterian Foundation receives second $1 million Lilly grant

February 1, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula

Lilly Endowment Inc. recently awarded the Presbyterian Foundation a second grant of $1 million as part of its National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for the Foundation to advance our work in offering stewardship education and real-life tools that provide truly meaningful help for our congregations and ministries to fund their vital ministries,” says Tom Taylor, President and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation. “Lilly Endowment has a keen vision for what the church can be in the future and how to support pastors and church leaders in their work. We are so honored to have received this funding for a second time from Lilly Endowment and are so excited about working nationally with pastors and congregations to shape the future of Christ’s church.”

The initial grant the Foundation received in December 2015 allowed the Foundation to develop pilot programs that provided tools and grants to assist a small group of churches and pastors in discovering new ways to fund their ministries. After strong successes during the initial phase during these past three years, this new grant will allow the Foundation to work over the next three years to scale the program and offer financial leadership training and tools nationally.

Grant funds allow national-level work

Lilly Endowment’s grant will allow the Presbyterian Foundation to offer four key activities to pastors and church leaders nationally that will strengthen congregational vitality. These include:

  • Personalized training through a new coaching network that will allow pastors and their churches to receive contextualized guidance and encouragement counseling to support their work.
  • Online education and support made available to all PC(USA) pastoral leaders and congregations.
  • Ministerial excellence funds that will continue to provide direct financial assistance to help pastoral leaders attend conferences, courses and other educational opportunities.
  • Partnerships with supporting organizations will help the Foundation reach broader audiences.

Foundation leadership

 The Foundation’s program is led by Rev. David Loleng, who has more than 20 years of ministry experience in Presbyterian churches in California. He joined the Foundation in 2015. He frequently speaks about evangelism, discipleship, missional life and culture at conferences, camps, synods, presbyteries, retreats and churches. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (World Trade and Development) from the University of California, Davis and a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.

“Our experience has confirmed our original insight, that too many pastors are unfamiliar with basic knowledge and understanding of organizational financial analysis, planning, and management,” Loleng says. “Experience has also confirmed that financial literacy and leadership are interdependent.”

The first grant allowed the Foundation to launch a pilot program in designated congregations within six presbyteries, which had 290 participants including 54 pastors. In addition to the leadership and financial literacy for pastors and key congregational leaders, work included:

  • setting mission goals and activation;
  • budgeting to align with those goals;
  • embracing the changing motives and modes of stewardship;
  • examining the theological missional bases of generosity.

Also during this pilot program, the Foundation’s regional Ministry Relations Officer in North Carolina, Olanda Carr, conducted 21 “Culture of Generosity” seminars in 21 congregations, chosen by the Board of Pensions. The BOP and the Foundation had a cooperative relationship in the pilot phase of the project, working together to implement the grants.

In the coming months, the Foundation will implement a new online stewardship tool for Presbyterian congregations to use for free to create and implement stewardship and generosity programs. The Foundation is also creating an e-learning platform to aid pastors with church financial leadership.

The new grant received in December 2018 will allow the Foundation to take the work completed during the pilot project to the entire PC(USA) church at a national level.

 Lilly Endowment grants background

The grants are part of Lilly Endowment’s commitment to supporting the pastoral leadership development of clergy serving in congregations across the United States.

The Presbyterian denomination, like other mainline faiths, faces declining membership, raising financial challenges for congregations and creating a need for pastors who are inspired and equipped to bring a new spirit of faithful leadership to congregations. Increasingly, pastors are feeling the effects of financial challenges facing churches.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.


The Presbyterian Foundation gathers, stewards and distributes funds for mission. A vital part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Foundation strengthens congregations and related mission and ministry efforts by developing gifts and managing funds on their behalf.