The Summit is a gathering of leaders from more than 110 projects funded by Lilly Endowment in three initiatives that address the economic challenges facing Christian seminaries, churches and clergy in the United States today. The projects are guided through coordination programs made possible by Lilly Endowment grants to three organizations – The Association of Theological Schools, In Trust Center for Theological Schools and Center for Congregations. The Center for Congregations is hosting the Summit through a grant from Lilly Endowment.

Through their coordination programs, these organizations are creating communities of learning to help project leaders within the Economic Challenges initiatives collect and share insights and track the progress of individual projects and the larger initiatives.


The Association of Theological Schools hosts the coordination program for the Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers that supports the work of 66 projects funded by Lilly Endowment. 

More than 270 graduate schools of theology in the United States and Canada form The Association of Theological Schools. Member schools conduct post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines. Through their membership in ATS, this diverse community of schools is committed to the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public. They demonstrate this commitment in two ways: through a Commission on Accrediting, which accredits institutions and approves the degree programs they offer, and through the Association, which provides a host of programs, services, research, and other resources to support the work of administrators and faculty at member schools.


The In Trust Center for Theological Schools is the coordinating organization for the Initiative to Build Capacity in Historically Black Theological Schools, a collaboration among six institutions, which is funded by Lilly Endowment. 

The mission of the In Trust Center is to strengthen theological schools by connecting their leaders to essential resources for mission vitality. The In Trust Center works with board members, senior administrators, faculty, and staff of a variety of institutions that prepare students for Christian ministry and for service in academia, the church, and the world. And the resources that the Center provides include books and periodicals (including In Trust magazine), online articles, connections to peer institutions and their leaders, and also recommendations of expert consultants and specialized vendors.


The Center for Congregations hosts the coordination program for the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders, which works with approximately 45 grantees funded by Lilly Endowment from across the US.  

Since 1997, Center for Congregations has helped Indiana congregations address their needs through resource consulting, educational events and grants. The Center works with clergy, staff and laity by listening to their concerns, developing work plans, and then carefully matching resources with their specific needs. Center staff have found that blending an excellent outside resource with a congregation’s own ingenuity can strengthen a congregation’s capacity to effectively address their challenges and opportunities. 

The Summit is made possible through a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the Center for Congregations. 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 Eli and J.K. Jr. — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.

The primary aim of the religion division is to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians, principally by supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations. The Endowment seeks to ensure that congregations have a steady stream of wise, faithful and well-prepared leaders. It supports efforts that help Christians draw on the wisdom of their theological traditions as they strive to understand and respond to contemporary challenges and live their faith more fully. In addition, the Endowment works to foster public understanding about religion and help lift up in fair and accurate ways the contributions that people of diverse religious faiths make to our greater civic well-being.