$1 Million Granted to the University of Mount Olive
December 11, 2020
Contact: Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations
MOUNT OLIVE- The University of Mount Olive (UMO) has received grants totaling $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grants made through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative, will enable UMO to establish the Clergy Connection Initiative (CCI). Its mission will align with the Thriving in Ministry goal of helping organizations 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.
In its research on the barriers facing rural clergy in eastern North Carolina, UMO found that limited resources, minimal professional development opportunities, and inconsistent peer-to-peer support structures often result in burnout, ministerial dissatisfaction, and, in many cases, clergy leaving the church within their most formative years. Through the Clergy Connection Initiative, UMO will strive to strengthen trust and rapport among rural clergy, train thriving clergy to become facilitators and mentors, offer formational peer-to-peer cohorts, support ongoing coaching and relational development, and move clergy from surviving to thriving.
Vice President for Institutional Advancement Jason Gipe indicated that the grant will allow UMO to address the needs of rural clergy in eastern North Carolina, while also continuing to fulfill its covenant. “The support this will provide our communities and churches is vital and will strengthen UMO as a leader in Christian higher education. We are thankful to the Lilly Endowment for this opportunity,” he said.
Over the course of the grant, UMO will recruit and train more than 20 seasoned clergy to become mentor-facilitators, as well as establish 10-15 locally-based supportive peer-to-peer cohorts that will create healthy, thriving pathways for small-congregation clergy that are in their first 10 years of ministry.
“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. Promising programs like the University of Mount Olive’s Clergy Connection Initiative, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”
“One of the key components of the University of Mount Olive’s mission is service to our students, our founding church, and our communities,” said UMO President Dr. Edward Croom. “I am excited to see how this funding from Lilly Endowment can assist us in expanding on those opportunities. We are grateful to Lilly Foundation and are eager to make an impactful difference within eastern North Carolina ministry.”
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. 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.
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.