Trevecca awarded $1 million grant to fund program to help new pastors

Trevecca Nazarene University has received a grant of $1 million to establish a new program for pastors.

Awarded by Lilly Endowment Inc. in November 2020, this grant supports the implementation of Laborers in the Vineyard (LiV), a program designed for pastors in their first five years of service—especially pastors of small congregations, diverse congregations, and church plants. 

The $1 million grant was awarded as part of Lilly Endowment’s  Thriving in Ministry initiative. Through this initiative, the Endowment 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.

“Pastors are the ones called to tend the vineyard, to serve God’s people. Trevecca began as a pastoral training college in 1901 and has continued to place an emphasis on training men and women for ministry in God’s kingdom,” said Prof. Mary Schmitt, program director for Laborers in the Vineyard. “This program is another opportunity for Trevecca to partner with pastors throughout the southeastern U.S.”

Schmitt currently serves as an assistant professor of the New Testament in Trevecca’s Millard Reed School of Theology and Christian Ministry.

The grant is an extension of the University’s mission and unapologetically Christian foundation, says Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca president. 

“Trevecca is the church at work educating. It would be easy to assume this work is limited to our campus or classrooms, but taking a cue from our theological father, John Wesley, we view the world as our parish,” Boone said. “This grant enables us to address the theological formation and training of pastors in the early years of their ministries. The leaders of Trevecca who are investing in these programs will bring creative, helpful understanding to the local church. We are honored by this opportunity to serve our city, our region and the Church of the Nazarene.”

The name, Laborers in the Vineyard, is taken from Matthew 20:1-15, Schmitt said. The passage describes workers hired to work in a vineyard in the third, sixth, ninth and twelfth hours. 

“The Laborers in the Vineyard program will focus on new pastors in their first five years of ministry who serve diverse congregations, small congregations or church plants,” Schmitt explained. “The goal is to come alongside those pastors with support, mentors and training opportunities so that their experience in ministry is life-giving.”

Janice Lovell, director of grants and foundation relations at Trevecca, said the University’s partnership for Thriving in Ministry with Lilly Endowment has been developing since 2018. Early this year, the Endowment’s religion division revisited a submission from Trevecca focused on research about the greatest needs of pastors across the Southeast region. Officials from the Endowment encouraged the University to finetune the objectives of that submission and resubmit the proposal. This chain of events eventually led to the $1 million grant, awarded to Trevecca in late 2020. 

“We conducted virtual meetings with pastors in the focus areas to better understand and address the response of supporting new pastors in their work,” Lovell said. “The full grant was submitted in August of 2020 after a summer full of virtual sessions with over 50 pastors in the southeast region.” 

From there, Laborers in the Vineyard came to fruition. Tim Green, dean of Trevecca’s Millard Reed School of Theology and Christian Ministry and director of Trevecca’s Youth Theology Institute, said the work made possible by the support of the Lilly Endowment is crucial to the life of the Church. 

“Through the development of Laborers in the Vineyard and the Youth Theology Institute at Trevecca, the School of Theology and Christian Ministry continues to commit itself and engage in the life and growth of the very center of Christian ministry in the life of the local church, which lies at the heart of carrying out the Gospel of Christ. The Trevecca School of Theology & Christian Ministry exists for the sake of equipping women and men, both clergy and lay, for service to the Kingdom of God through the life of the local church,” Green said.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

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. 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. Learn more.

About Trevecca Nazarene University

Trevecca Nazarene University is a Christian university in the heart of Nashville focused on preparing students for lives of leadership and service. Founded in 1901, Trevecca is committed to holistic education, encouraging students to grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

This commitment extends from Trevecca’s historic main campus just one mile from thriving downtown Nashville to two other locations across Tennessee, and online classes offered worldwide. With students from 47 states and 25 countries, Trevecca offers 20 associate degrees, 73 undergraduate majors, 19 master’s programs and three doctoral programs as well as specialist and certificate programs.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Trevecca as a national university in the annual “2021 Best Colleges,” making the University the only Nazarene institution to receive the national ranking. The Carnegie Foundation has classified Trevecca as a doctoral university, ranking it among the top seven percent of schools nationwide. The University is listed among the top 10 colleges and universities in Tennessee in personal finance website WalletHub's 2021 College and University Ranking. 

The campus is certified as both an arboretum and the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA, one of just nine universities and colleges in the state to receive the recognition. A member of NCAA Division II, Trevecca boasts 15 men’s and women’s teams who compete in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference as well as 12 intramural teams. 

By Bailey Basham, ’17
Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695