The campus of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo credits: Division of Communications and Marketing/HBCU Campaign Fund.

(LITTLE ROCK, AR) – Philander Smith College is the recipient of funds totaling $1,049,130 to help establish the Strengthening Ministries in Black and Small Churches in Central Arkansas program. 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.

Earlier in the year the College received a $50,000 award from Lilly Endowment to support the development of the Thriving in Ministry grant submission. That planning grant, combined with the full award of $999,130, represents a total of $1,049,130 investment to strengthen the pastors serving small churches in Arkansas and nearby states.

Thriving in Ministry seeks to help pastors develop meaningful relationships with wise colleagues who can help guide them through key leadership challenges, especially during transitions in their ministerial careers. The initiative builds upon recent studies that have examined the importance of colleagues and mentors who help pastors face and overcome common professional challenges. These studies include research from the Endowment-funded Flourishing in Ministry project.

“Philander Smith College has a legacy of developing clergy who have become leaders and mentors to generations of ministers and pastors,” said Dr. Roderick L. Smothers, President of Philander Smith College. “Our alumni have broken barriers, published extensively in the field of religious studies, and blazed spiritual trails for a new cohort of preachers and scholars. Funding from Lilly Endowment will help us to continue to build upon this sacred foundation.”

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher Cobe, 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 efforts in this initiative including the Philander Smith College program, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

The grant period at Philander Smith College will run from December 2020 through December 2025.

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About Philander Smith College
Founded in 1877, Philander Smith College is a small, privately supported, historically Black, four-year liberal arts institution related to the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. The College’s mission is to graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better. For more information, visit www.philander.edu.

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