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Lilly Grant Initiative: Ministerial Excellence Fund FAQ

We, the Rocky Mountain Synod (RMS) 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 MEF 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 rostered ministers and active candidates are eligible, including those who are without call or have a status as retired or disabled. 
  2. How do I apply?
    Inquiries for a Ministerial Excellence Fund grant are available online at  Once you submit an inquiry, you will be contacted by the Associate Project Director, 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 MEF grants are designed to provide assistance with education debt, medical debt, credit card debt, lack of continuing education funds, and insufficient retirement savings. In addition, applications will be considered for other emergency needs that present obstacles to ministry.
  4. How much grant support is available to me?
    MEF grants are dollar-for-dollar (1 to 1) matching grants, up to $2,000 for the total grant award per year.  Debt from education may qualify for a greater match (up to 2.5 to 1), depending on the circumstances, including total household income and debt, amount of seminary debt, and size of the congregation’s budget.  A total education grant award can be up to $5,000 and awarded only once during the 3-year grant period.  As an incentive, an applicant/congregation/ministry raising 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 debt relief grants at not matching grants and total 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 support, 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.
  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 MEF 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 MEF 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.  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 MEF 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 (MEF) grants?
    You are welcome to contact Julie Nelson, Associate Project Director for Equip, Educate, Enact.  Her email is (link sends e-mail), and her phone is 970-324-5100.