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Austin Seminary receives $1.2 million grant to strengthen preaching

Austin Seminary receives $1.2 million grant to strengthen preaching

Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1,248,603 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish The Faithful Preaching Project, a new initiative designed to help preachers of small mainline congregations instill deeper faith in their listeners and empower them to live out their faith more fully in worship and in the community beyond their church walls. The Reverend Dr. Carolyn Helsel, Associate Professor in the Blair Monie Distinguished Chair in Homiletics, wrote the grant and will be charged with designing and administering the program.

The program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Compelling Preaching Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to foster and support preaching that inspires, encourages, and guides people to come to know and love God and to live out their Christian faith more fully.

“The goal of the Faithful Preaching Project will be to identify what makes sermons faith-full and faith-inspiring, and then to coach preachers on how they can infuse their own preaching with those skills,” says Professor Helsel. “When I taught lay preachers in our Certificate in Ministry program last spring, I was struck by how the students’ sermons so powerfully demonstrated and communicated a deep faith. My hope is to help more preachers cultivate a preaching life that fosters faith in listeners.” The project is guided by three goals aimed at strengthening preaching skills for clergy and lay preachers:

1.     Coach preachers and lay proclaimers of small mainline congregations to inspire listeners to know and love God and live out their Christian faith in the world.

2.     Equip preachers to empower their congregants to create worship liturgies and testify to God’s love so all members practice being proclaimers.

3.     Train preachers to communicate faith-instilling messages to reach outside the walls of the church and engage the community beyond their congregation.

The project’s main activities include coaching preachers, hosting cohorts of preachers, hosting preaching workshops, and creating a worship camp for worship leaders and pastors to come together and consider creative ways to reimagine faithful worship.

Austin Seminary is one of eighty-one organizations receiving grants through this competitive round of the Compelling Preaching Initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, Anabaptist, and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in the Black Church and in Hispanic and Asian American Christian traditions.

“Throughout history, preachers often have needed to adapt their preaching practices to engage new generations of hearers more effectively,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We are pleased that the organizations receiving grants in this initiative will help pastors and others in ministry engage in the kinds of preaching needed today to ensure that the gospel message is heard and accessible for all audiences.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Compelling Preaching Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting projects that help to nurture the religious lives of individuals and families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.  

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private 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. While those gifts remain the 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 hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

About Austin Seminary

Founded in 1902, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is an institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership. For more information and ways to support Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, visit