Students at commencement

Grants and Projects

Changing the way we think about ministry

Lilly Preaching Grant

Luther Seminary received a $500,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., to support a four-year project called The Learning Preacher: Instilling a Trajectory of Lifelong Homiletical Instruction. The Endowment is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation that supports the causes of religion, education and community development.

According to Karoline Lewis, associate professor of biblical preaching and Alvin N. Rogness Chair of Homiletics at Luther Seminary, the grant funds will be used to identify and implement a variety of enhanced learning opportunities for those who want to preach more effectively.

"We intend to use this generous grant to help us design and offer a spectrum of resources that preachers need throughout their pastoral ministry," Lewis said. "Current students, recent graduates and seasoned preachers will all be enriched by the outcomes of this initiative. We are thankful to the Endowment for making this exciting opportunity possible for us."

The Endowment's support for Luther Seminary's work with seminarians and pastors is part of its commitment nationwide to foster excellence in seminary education and the development of programs that support clergy. Luther Seminary's project will provide instructional resources for pastors at three points in their homiletical development:

  • seminary instruction;
  • first call theological education; and
  • lifelong learning for pastors who have been in ministry for seven or more years.

This will help preachers find relevant support and educational resources from Luther Seminary that will enhance their preaching skills.

"I believe the Endowment selected Luther Seminary as a recipient of this grant because of our demonstrated commitment to preaching," Lewis said. "We are known for our strength in homiletics instruction and for our preaching resources on our website, In addition, we present the Festival of Homiletics and the Celebration of Biblical Preaching events each year, both of which draw hundreds of people to learn and discuss ways in which they can improve the quality of their preaching."


Lilly Stewardship Grant

In 2014, Luther Seminary received a $239,500 grant as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. It is one of 67 theological schools across the country to receive this funding. This three-year project will have two areas of focus. Luther Seminary will study how educational debt affects the ability of seminary graduates to lead stewardship in the congregations and missions they serve. And Luther Seminary will explore ways to reduce student debt. This comprehensive project will involve hundreds of our graduates, and the congregations and individuals who have supported them along the way. 

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Templeton Youth, Faith & Science Grant

The Templeton Youth, Faith & Science Grant will address perspectives related to faith and science within the context of youth ministry. First will be an attempt to determine the attitudes and postures of youth pastors related to science and faith. Are youth pastors apathetic or anxious about faith and science in their ministry? Second, the project will discern the attitudes and perspectives of young people in regards to the same conversation. More specifically, do young people have a sense that the church is interested in science? Thus, the primary thrust of this research is preliminary, and in a sense to map the perspectives around faith and science in youth ministry. Research will proceed in two phases, led by Dr. Andrew Root (Luther Seminary), Dr. Tony Jones and Rev. Dr. David White.

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The Confirmation Project

Princeton Theological Seminary received a $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund a study of confirmation practices in five North American Protestant denominations—the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Luther Seminary is participating in this grant administered by Princeton Theological Seminary.

The Confirmation Project, Christian Youth: Learning and Living the Faith, will explore the effectiveness of confirmation and equivalent practices for strengthening discipleship in youth. It will also provide churches with examples of strategies and practices to help young Christians grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

In the end, the goal is to benefit churches and young people. Research outcomes include helping churches gain an understanding of confirmation and equivalent practices across denominations, and helping them assess the expectations and levels of satisfaction of young people, their parents, and ministry leaders.

Qualitative research began in 2014, with site visits and a focus on storytelling about confirmation practices. The project will conclude in December 2016. Terri Elton, Associate Professor of Children, Youth, and Family Ministry, is the lead faculty member from Luther Seminary coordinating the project.

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Vibrant Congregations Project

The Vibrant Congregations Project (VCP) was awarded in 2009 and is scheduled to complete its work in 2016. Luther Seminary partnered with congregations to: a) understand the challenges of faithful innovation in key ministry areas and b) create resources to more effectively support others looking to do the same. These learning partnerships unfolded in three phases, in cohorts of 7-12 congregations, for:

  • discovery, identifying current attitudes, habits, and practices in a given area;

  • experimentation, trying out new patterns of being and acting in response to these discoveries;

  • assessment, taking stock of the new practices and making adjustments as needed.

The key ministry areas engaged were:

  • Bible Study

  • Vocation

  • Biblical Preaching

  • Stewardship

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Reformation Research Project

The Reformation Research Program offers both resources and opportunities for broadening the appreciation of the heritage of the Reformation (particularly the Lutheran Reformation).  The program has two major arenas of activity:

  • The program currently seeks to offer programs to stimulate discussion in various venues of the Reformation, in particular, the Lutheran Reformation, its theology, context and heritage, as well as its resonances and implications for today.  It has sponsored conferences, consultations, and colloquy over the last five years to fulfill this aim. It is participating in planning for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
  • The program maintains a fine collection of reformation-era works on microfiche.  While continuing to receive orders previously submitted to European libraries, the program is not currently ordering materials but rather seeks to expand access to its collection through appropriate cataloging as well as advertising in scholarly journals. You can access more than 42,000 documents via the Reformation Research collection on the Luther Seminary Library site.

The Reformation Research Program encourages and enhances interest in and reflection upon the heritage of the Lutheran Reformation in particular and the movements in Christianity in the 16th and 17th century more broadly.  Dr. Mary Jane Haemig, Professor of Church History, is the program’s director.



Learning Pastoral Imagination

The Learning Pastoral Imagination (LPI) Project is a five-year study that responds to the question of how pastoral imagination is formed through practice in ministry over time in light of the fact that seminary graduates report significant gaps in their preparation for the practice of ministry. The ecumenical project is working with 50 Christian pastors at various intervals of time as well as 50 seminary students as they move from professional training into ministry. Research takes place through small group and individual interviews as well as follow-up congregational visits across five regions of the United States.

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