Grant Received for Early Career Pastoral Leadership Development Program

Published: February 10, 2014

(Winston-Salem, N.C., February 10, 2014) – Wake Forest University School of Divinity has received a $499,997 grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to strengthen the pastoral and civic leadership of early career clergy.

Titled, Clergy Making a Place: Early Career Pastors as Generative Community Leaders, the Wake Forest program will strengthen the pastoral and civic leadership of the most promising early career clergy (those with 5-10 years of experience) who serve congregations in cities and towns along the Interstate 40 corridor in North Carolina and adjacent regions of Virginia (Greensboro, N.C. to Danville, Va., Winston-Salem to Lexington, Asheville to Brevard, Statesville to Hickory).

The distinguishing mark of this program is that it will bring clergy leaders together with outstanding business and civic leaders to learn about the most difficult issues facing their communities. Targeted issues for the program include health care, poverty and economic justice, hunger and food access, immigration and racial justice, and regional economic renewal. These early career clergy will enhance their leadership skills and competencies so that they can assume their place as generative leaders in their larger communities and identify initiatives where congregations and their leaders can make vital contributions to the civic landscape.

Veronice Miles, Associate Teaching Professor of Preaching and Religious Education, will oversee the effort. “We hope that this program will help early career clergy deepen their identity as church and community leaders,” Miles said. “Our project goal is to offer early career clergy and civic and business leaders opportunities to learn from each other’s strengths and capacities so that together they can more effectively tackle the particular social and economic challenges of the communities they serve.”

The grant will enable an unprecedented level of sustained outreach to congregations and their leaders in our region, said Gail R. O’Day, Dean of the School of Divinity. “These pastoral leaders will focus on key issues facing this region of North Carolina.  We believe that this program will help them deepen their contributions to the local communities where they work and live.” 

This clergy continuing education program puts the values of the School of Divinity into action. “It shows a deep commitment to clergy members and the role of congregations to be transformative agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in the public sphere,” O’Day said.

The Endowment’s grant was awarded as part of its Early Career Pastoral Leadership Development initiative, which helps to build the leadership capacities and skills of pastors at a critical early stage of their ministerial careers.  The Wake Forest University School of Divinity is one of 12 organizations to receive such funding. 

The School of Divinity will begin accepting nominations and applications for this cohort-based program in early spring 2014. Two distinct cohort groups will participate in this leadership development program, one that begins in 2014, and a second that begins in 2016.  The first clergy cohort will be selected in summer 2014, and the first meeting will be held in November. More information will be provided on the School of Divinity’s website at


About Lilly Endowment Inc.

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 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.  More information can be found at


About Wake Forest University School of Divinity

The School of Divinity is a graduate, professional school that is Christian by tradition, Baptist in heritage, and ecumenical in outlook. Consistent with Wake Forest’s commitment to academic excellence and in the spirit of the University, Pro Humanitate, the School of Divinity prepares leaders informed by a theological understanding of vocation. Through imaginative courses and diverse programs of community engagement, students are equipped to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries.


Media Contact: Mark Batten; 336.758.3748