take charge of the subject and how you’re going to study it, but you take charge of this group, how you’re going to function, how often you’re going to meet. We don’t have a particular pattern.” Of course, you have to tell them that over, and over, and over again, and the facilitators do that. The facilitators have been in such a peer group, and they understand that they, themselves, had a hard time getting that. We give them space for self-direction and agency, but we also believe in evaluation. It is never us telling them what to do, but we are always seeking their deeper learning: “What does this mean to you? How are you applying this?” Whatever they say to us is transformative to them, and it may be completely different from what they presented in their proposal. We are creating a platform or a context in which mature clergy, beyond that point of jumping through everybody’s hoops, can claim their own agency for self-directed renewal. Building Grant Attractiveness. The early program that we had in Alabama, which lasted about twelve years, came to the attention of the Lilly Endowment staff, unbeknownst to us. But Ed and Peggy Dixon, the couple that had started and
funded the program, had done an evaluation, and somehow that evaluation got to the Lilly Endowment staff. As we learned later, Lilly’s religion staff had been giving money to seminaries, research projects, and other similar entities, but they were looking in new directions and saw this program in Alabama that was peer-group based.They put together a new grant division called Sustaining Pastoral Excellence for funding peer groups with self-directed learning. A group of us who had been part of this earlier program saw an ad regarding this new direction and decided to get involved. We assembled a writing team and were awarded the first grant: $2,000,000 for five years. They funded about 67 projects around the country. At the end of the first five years, they offered a partial continuation grant for another five years, which was half of what the original grant was so, in our case, that was another million. We have always, also, had a vigorous local fundraising effort, and a high buy-in. Peer group members are expected to contribute $600 a year for three years. Each church with a staff member selected also provides $900 a year through the duration. Each group receives an $80,000 continuing education grant, but $36,000 of that was paid by their
personal and religious organizations’ giving. The Institute’s board of directors engages in fundraising efforts, as well. While we were awarded two grants totaling $3 million by the Lilly Foundation, we raised locally about $2.7 million. Now we’re at the end of that very generous funding from Lilly and we continue to investigate funding options. Our peer-group members and their churches pay a substantial amount of the programming costs, but we continue to work to find ways to fund the $80,000 education grant for each group’s program.We also have a group committed to working on funding, raising additional money from their acquaintances. Two members of the group have people within their churches who are decision-makers in small family foundations. We recognize these sources aren’t the same as a $1 or $2 million dollar grant but, as social benefit organizations, you continue to raise funds to help the cause. Dr. Larry Dill, a member of Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Huntsville/Madison County, Alabama, is the Executive Director of the Institute for Clergy Excellence. He is past president of the Minister’s Association of Greater Birmingham and of Eastside Mental Health Center. In 1987, he was chosen Citizen of the Year by the Eastern Area Chamber of Commerce in Birmingham, AL.
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