Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program grant info


November 3, 2021

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Contact: Rev. Paul Offhaus

St. John Lutheran Church

729 West Washington Blvd.

Fort Wayne, IN 46802


Fort Wayne, Indiana

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in the West Central neighborhood has received a grant of $49,903 to enable its minister, the Rev. Paul Offhaus, to participate in the 2021 Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations.

St. John is one of 34 congregations in Indiana selected to participate in this competitive program, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and administered by Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Two other Fort Wayne congregations, Heartland Church and Redeemer Lutheran Church, were also selected. Established by the Endowment in 1999, the program’s grants allow congregations to support their pastors with the gift of extended time away from their ministerial duties and responsibilities.

Ministers whose congregations are awarded the grants use their renewal experiences to engage in reflection and renewal. The approach respects the “Sabbath time” concept, offering ministers a carefully considered respite that may include travel, study, rest, prayer and immersive arts and cultural experiences. “I’m thrilled at the opportunities for rest, reflection and renewal that this grant provides,” Rev. Offhaus says. “And I’m incredibly grateful to St. John for their support, and to Lilly Endowment, Inc. for their generosity, which is opening doors to places that my family and I would otherwise not have been able to experience.”

Through the program, Indiana congregations may apply for grants of up to $50,000 to support renewal experiences for their pastors. Collaborative in nature and implementation, the program allows congregations to partner with their ministers in developing experiences that address their unique renewal needs and aspirations. Recognizing that ministers’ families are subject to the stress and demands placed on pastoral leaders, the program encourages pastors to involve their families in renewal activities. Congregational needs during the minister’s renewal experience also are considered. Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to fund interim pastoral leadership during the pastor’s retreat, as well as for renewal activities within the congregation.

Since the Endowment established the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations in 1999 and the National Clergy Renewal Program for congregations in the other 49 states in 2000, more than 3,200 congregations have participated in the program, including the 34 Indiana congregations receiving grants in 2021.

The Power of a Name – both our own names and the name of Jesus in our midst – is what Rev. Offhaus and the people of St. John will focus on during their time apart, which will take place May 16 – August 16, 2022.

First, this time of renewal will provide ample, Spirit-filled, intentional space for Pastor Paul to engage deeply with his own name—including his namesake, the Apostle Paul, by literally following in the footsteps of Paul in Turkey and Greece. Rev. Offhaus will focus on three core names: Child of God, Pastor, and Husband and Father. Through journaling and spiritual direction, extended time devoted to reading, prayer, reflection, and intentional time with his family, he will grow in each of these three aspects over the course of his renewal leave, empowering him to be a more loving, engaged husband and father, pastor and child of God upon his return to the regular rhythms of rest and work, church and home. In addition to following in the footsteps of Paul, family time exploring Greece and a relaxing week on the Greece island of Santorini are planned, as well as a trip to Minnesota to serve at a national youth gathering and another family trip, this time following Alaska’s Inward Passage by railroad to Denali National Park.

Second, the people of St. John and our West Central neighbors will also be invited to consider the power a name can wield. Through three planned congregational-neighborhood events over the course of Rev. Offhaus’ leave and two adult education opportunities, the congregation and our West Central neighbors will be invited to engage deeply themselves with the power of three core names: baptized child of God, family and neighbor.

“Pastors play an important role in nourishing the spiritual lives of individuals and in guiding the work of the Christian congregations they serve,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Through these grants, we seek to honor pastors for their extraordinary service and enable them to engage in a brief period of rest and renewal. We have learned that such experiences invigorate the leadership of pastors and bring new vitality to their congregations as well.”

Dr. Robert Saler, director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, noted that the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations integrates key attributes of healthy congregations, including a mutual respect for the renewal needs of both ministers and the congregations they serve.

“The program provides an opportunity for congregations to express appreciation for their ministers’ service and leadership,” Saler said. “At a time when leaders are often praised for their pace of innovation and productivity, the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations pays homage to the timeless wisdom embedded in the practice of reflection and renewal.”

Theological Seminary in Indianapolis directs the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program for Indiana Congregations and a second program for congregations across the United States through its Center for Pastoral Excellence.