AMBS receives Thriving in Ministry grant

Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, dean of lifelong learning; David B. Miller, teaching associate of the Church Leadership Center; and Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator and graphic designer and website specialist; a

Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, dean of lifelong learning; David B. Miller, teaching associate of the Church Leadership Center; and Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator and graphic designer and website specialist; all played a role in designing the Thriving on the Journey grant proposal and will have ongoing roles in its implementation. (Credit: Melissa Troyer)

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, has received a $1 million grant to help establish Thriving on the Journey: A Process for Pastoral Leaders. 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 has approved nearly $70 million in grants through the Thriving in Ministry initiative.

According to Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, AMBS dean of lifelong learning, the AMBS Thriving on the Journey program comprises two components:

  • Transition to Leadership supports pastors as they transition into ministry; it is designed to guide new pastors over a period of two years as they move into a ministry role following completion of a Master of Divinity degree.
  • Leadership Integrity Circles will address ministry transitions brought on by personal, relational, cultural or structural upheaval specific to particular ministry settings. This component is designed to guide experienced pastors as they seek to reimagine their ministries in light of these shifts.

“Transition to Leadership will use and expand upon what we have learned about mentoring from our noncredit Journey Missional Leadership Development program, offered through the Church Leadership Center since 2003,” Gingerich Longenecker noted. “Leadership Integrity Circles will draw on what we have learned through our Ministry in Church and World internship courses in the Master of Divinity program.

“Both programs will empower pastoral leaders to (re)imagine their calls and ministries so that they can lead their congregations confidently, joyfully and non-anxiously in ministries of reconciliation suited to their contexts — developing self-awareness, curiosity and intercultural competence; developing relationships of support; and experiencing clarity in their roles.”

Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, said she’s thrilled with Lilly Endowment’s strong endorsement of the quality leadership formation that the seminary’s Church Leadership Center has been offering to the church.

“These new initiatives build on a strong foundation of established relationships, proven methodologies, and innovative programming that is a signature of the Church Leadership Center, Jewel Gingerich Longenecker’s leadership and our AMBS faculty,” she said. “I’m especially encouraged that the mentoring and guidance envisioned for both new and experienced leaders will particularly emphasize growth in intercultural competence and ministries of reconciliation — skills urgently needed by faith leaders in our time. We offer our hearty thanks to Lilly Endowment for its leadership and affirmation of AMBS’s programming, yet again, building on earlier grants.”

AMBS 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 AMBS’s Thriving on the Journey, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

—AMBS release


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.