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Princeton Seminary Receives $1 Million Grant to Innovate New Models of Christian Leadership

News The Isaiah Partnership

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Princeton Theological Seminary has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the institution in preparing pastoral leaders to address today’s most pressing issues. The initiative is called The Isaiah Partnership: Pastors Leading Innovation.

This project will test two models of pastoral leadership formation that foster innovation and change in, with, and through congregations. These models will inform how Princeton Seminary prepares students in degree and non-degree programs to lead innovation in their communities by engaging laypersons in congregations. The Seminary will directly collaborate with The Changemaker Church Movement and The Glean Network.

Concurrently, this project will engage Princeton Seminary faculty to create a theological framework for innovation and change leadership. Faculty will design and model ways to leverage innovation for ministry by incorporating concepts and practices of innovation into their teaching. The Isaiah Partnership will sit with the Office of Continuing Education at Princeton Seminary, which offers ministry leaders opportunities for theological formation, spiritual renewal, and leadership development on campus and online.

“To mobilize the imagination of Christian leaders — laypersons, faculty, and pastors — is to draw from a deep theological well that testifies to a God who is making all things new. We are immensely excited to work with congregations and faculty members on The Isaiah Partnership, to both serve the pastoral leaders of today and shape how we form those to come,” says Rev. Abigail Rusert, director of program design and the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Seminary and The Isaiah Partnership’s project leader.

The Isaiah Partnership is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. It is a three-phase initiative designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future.

Princeton Theological Seminary is one of 84 theological schools that are receiving a total of more than $82 million in grants through the second phase of the Pathways initiative. Together, the schools represent evangelical, mainline Protestant, nondenominational, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, and Black church and historic peace church traditions (e.g., Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Quakers). Many schools also serve students and pastors from Black, Latino, Korean American, Chinese American, and recent immigrant Christian communities.

“Theological schools have long played a pivotal role in preparing pastoral leaders for churches,” says Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Today, these schools find themselves in a period of rapid and profound change. Through the Pathways Initiative, theological schools will take deliberate steps to address the challenges they have identified in ways that make the most sense to them. We believe that their efforts are critical to ensuring that Christian congregations continue to have a steady stream of pastoral leaders who are well-prepared to lead the churches of tomorrow.”

The grant will fund a full-time program coordinator position, for which a search is currently open. Click here to learn more.

“The changing nature of ministry calls for new ways for clergy and lay people to nurture connections with one another and God. This project will foster collaboration between the theological scholarship and habits of discipleship that bind us to our past and enable us to embrace our future. The Isaiah Partnership offers the opportunity to develop new educational strategies for tomorrow’s congregational leaders, equipping them to be agents of change,” says M. Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Seminary.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and 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 supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate, and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being.



Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church, Crystal City, Missouri

Joshua Noah, Class of 2015

“Through my field education placement at Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey, I discovered my gift to minister to all age groups.”