The Lilly Endowment Inc. renews its work with us
We have begun a new three-year period of work with the Lilly Endowment Inc. Our first three-year term was 2016-2018. In 2018, The Lilly Endowment Inc. approached us with an offer to apply for a second three-year term so that we may further invest our gains in the life of our synod. We applied, were accepted, and will now be working with them through 2021.
With this new term comes a new infusion of money for our work, with the requirement that we match the money they give us. Lilly will provide a new grant of $250,000. At the end of Phase I, we were granted permission to rollover the unspent balance. Because $30,000 of that was moved from operational dollars into our MEF, we are required to also match that amount, so the total we need to raise is $280,000 from individual and congregational donations. Given the generosity shown 2016-2018 in raising matching funds, we know we can do this.
Pastor Andrew Hermodson-Olsen has served as the director of the Lilly Project for the last two years, taking over for Pastor Bill Nelsen. Under the new phase of Gifts of Grace, Pastor Dwaine Bruns will join the leadership as a co-director with Pastor Andrew. They will divide the duties and invite others to share in this work.
Bishop Jon Anderson, Synod Minister Kathryn Skoglund, and Director for Evangelical Mission Larry Strenge have been deeply involved in advising and guiding the program from week to week.
We thank Deb Hess, who provided wonderful administrative help for this program but has now ended her work in our synod office. The new administrative assistant is Maggie Berggren.
The Lilly Project was also guided by an Implementation Team which met every other month and offered perspective in shaping the program. We thank those who served on that team. A new team has been formed for the next three-year term of Gifts of Grace.
Grants and Educational opportunities
Many are familiar with the Ministerial Excellence Fund (MEF). That name will stay the same. The MEF has provided financial support to our rostered ministers over the last three years and will continue to do so through its four grants that address educational debt, unexpected medical expenses, and retirement readiness. These grants demonstrate the care we as a synod wish to give to our rostered ministers and reflect a belief that their wellbeing is tied to the health of our congregations and synod.
Another aspect of Gifts of Grace is providing resources for financial literacy, financial health, and stewardship training. By continuing to provide resources for our rostered ministers and leaders to attend stewardship programs, such as the Executive Certificate for Religious Fundraising and Cultivating Generous Congregations, Gifts of Grace supports our rostered ministers in their efforts to ensure the financial health of their congregations, not just in the short term but in the long term as well, through cultural changes in the way generosity is approached and understood.
Here is some of the feedback we have received:
Debt Reduction Grant:
“We are inexpressibly grateful that our synod is willing to share in our burden. This gift has emboldened us in our hope that one day, sooner than later, we will be debt-free. Experiencing this generosity is a bright reminder that our life is not filled with scarcity, but abundance.”
Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising:
“I gained confidence and comfort in talking directly with people about financial contributions to the congregation as I came to view this as offering members an opportunity to participate in a ministry they care deeply about. I included some of the basic principles from the training in our annual stewardship campaign and saw increases in participation and giving commitments for the year. It has allowed the congregation to focus and reimagine our budget on annual ministry priorities and given members the opportunity to engage in ministry through their generosity.”
“The reason we financially support the education debt reduction grant is because it proves that we are a welcoming synod, not just to encourage our present pastors to stay but also future pastors to look within our synod for their next call. We want to set our pastors, who carry educational debt, free to serve with greater joy. By supporting rostered leaders with grants for educational debt, medical emergencies, and pension contributions, we encourage our rostered leaders to speak about the grace of God and invite generosity in their ministries. We also hope this will encourage pastors to stay in our synod and deepen their roots in their contexts of service.
“It is my hope that many of you within the Southwestern Minnesota Synod who also see the need to support our pastors would be encouraged to give to Gifts of Grace and help support our pastors within the
Southwestern Minnesota Synod.”
- Bill and Rev. Marlene Elmstrom