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Lilly Grant Initiative: Ministerial Excellence Fund FAQ

The Rocky Mountain Synod received a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment to launch Equip, Educate, Enact in January 2017.  The grant helps us address some of the challenges we face with rostered ministers feeling isolated, which is made more significant when debt is present.  One aspect of Equip, Educate, Enact is the Ministerial Excellence Fund, which encourages financial wellness both in rostered ministers and in congregations.  The Ministerial Excellence Fund is comprised of funds from the grant, as well as funds from generous congregations and individuals who recognize the connectedness we share, and that helping the welfare of others only increases our own welfare.  Fundraising for the Ministerial Excellence Fund is ongoing.

  1. Who may apply for a grant from the Ministerial Excellence Fund? 
    All Rocky Mountain Synod rostered ministers and candidates are eligible to apply.   Candidates need to be in final categories (approved and/or assigned & approved) for education debt grants.
  2. How do I apply?
    Inquiries for a Ministerial Excellence Fund grant are available online at  Once you submit a grant inquiry, you will be contacted by the Associate Program Director for the Ministerial Excellence Fund, and assigned a Fiscal Wellness Advocate to walk you through the application process.  You will talk about the need and develop a way to address the financial challenge.
  3. What types of debt qualify for a grant?
    The Ministerial Excellence Fund grants are designed to provide assistance with education debt and medical debt.  In addition, applications will be considered for other dire emergency needs that present obstacles to ministry.
  4. How much grant support is available to me?
    An education debt grant award can be up to $5,000.  A medical debt grant award can be up to $2,000.  As an incentive, an applicant partnering with their congregation to raise up to $1,000 as a contribution to MEF can receive a match up to $1,000, which can increase the amount of some types of grant awards by up to $2,000.  Emergency grants at not matching grants and the award is up to $1,000.
  5. What commitment is expected on my part?
    Just as the Lilly Endowment offered their grant as seed money so that new life and ways of serving might grow, so the grant is offered to you as seed money for your life and ministry to grow.  You will be expected to participate in educational programs, which your Fiscal Wellness Advocate will help you choose.  You are expected to report about the impact the grant has made on your wellness as a rostered minister or candidate.
  6. What is included with an application?
    You will be asked about your household income and debt, personal savings, the congregation budget, as well as your giving to the congregation. 
  7. Who makes the final decision about grant applications?
    All Ministerial Excellence Fund grant applications are reviewed by the Fiscal Wellness Grants Board, composed of 3 rostered ministers and 2 lay leaders.  The Board meets at least quarterly.  When your application is received, you will be notified of their next meeting.  Within two days after that meeting, you will be notified if your request has been approved.
  8. Are there tax implications for receiving Ministerial Excellence Fund grants?
    There are possible tax implications when receiving a grant.  The rostered minister or candidate is responsible for paying those taxes.  Your tax advisor should be consulted.
  9. May I apply for a grant again next year?
    Yes, applications may be submitted once a year for medical debt and dire emergency.  Education debt is only awarded once to an applicant during the three-year grant period.  The Fiscal Wellness Grants Board will strive to distribute grants to new applicants as well as consider applications from prior grantees.
  10. How long will the Ministerial Excellence Fund grants be available?
    The Lilly Endowment grant covers an initial period through 2019.  As funds are raised, it is our hope that the grants will be continued into the future. 
  11. Who do I contact for more information about the Ministerial Excellence Fund grants?
    You are welcome to contact Julie Nelson, Associate Program Director of the Ministerial Excellence Fund.  Her email is, and her phone is 970-324-5100.