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BGAV receives $1 million Lilly Endowment grant to help expand Uptick

Posted: 10/12/18 at 7:00am.

The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) has received a grant of $1 million to help expand Uptick. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.   

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative. 

Uptick was created 10 years ago to provide intense personal and group interaction with mentors and congregational leaders, enabling participants to deepen their spiritual leadership, heighten accountability to goals, and construct a discipleship path into the future for sustainable ministry. The Thriving in Ministry grant will create three new Uptick cohorts each year starting in 2020 in the “Golden Crescent” of Virginia (Metro Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Tidewater) for young pastors who lead churches that are racially and ethnically diverse, where the congregation tends to be transient and strategic partnerships with the community are lacking. The goals of these cohorts will be to strengthen pastors to live in healthy personal and professional rhythms that make listening and responding possible, embed them into a richer network with each other and with other Kingdom leaders (mentors and coaches), and help them sharpen skills to address the challenges of leading churches in highly populated areas. 

“I truly believe that the greatest miracle that the North American church is going to see in the days ahead will happen only when the walls that divide us–whether they are gender walls, cultural walls, economic walls, or race walls–come down,” said John Upton, BGAV Executive Director. “When that happens, the people of God will be free to experience the incredible miracles that the Spirit is wanting to work in us. My prayer is that the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry grant will help us knock those walls down, so that God’s kingdom can truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

“A grant of this magnitude is a game changer. It will allow us to invest in the life and leadership of over 50 young pastors during the next four years, equipping them to develop a theology of a people, place and a just society; giving them tools to understand change management and cross-cultural engagement while learning how to leverage their economic wisdom for the flourishing of their community,” explained Laura McDaniel, Network Catalyst and Project Director for the grant. “We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for its investment into the future of the BGAV.” 

The BGAV is one of 78 organizations located in 29 states that is taking part in the initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox. 

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years. 

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Uptick, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.” 

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 Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment 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. The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.