Northern Seminary Receives $5 Million Grant to Create Pathways for Church Leaders to Receive Seminary-Level Education  

LISLE, IL, Sept. 22, 2022 – Northern Seminary has received a five-year, $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help grow Seminary Now, a streaming video platform that makes non-credit seminary courses accessible to church leaders and lay congregational ministers. The grant will allow Seminary Now to expand by providing for-credit exploratory courses from partner seminaries so that prospective students have a low-barrier entry point to explore seminary. 

The grant was awarded in the third and final phase of Lilly Endowment’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative. The initiative is designed to help theological schools across the United States and Canada as they prioritize and respond to the most pressing challenges they face as they prepare pastoral leaders for Christian congregations both now and into the future. 

Since its inception two years ago, Seminary Now has grown to 1,900 subscribers and 60 congregations through church subscriptions. Through innovative technology, Seminary Now educates congregational leaders whom seminaries do not traditionally reach, making theological education accessible for those who may never have considered a seminary degree. The grant by Lilly Endowment will help build a pathway for pre-seminary students to move from Seminary Now into seminary degree programs.  

“The world has changed dramatically over the past three years,” said Dr. William Shiell, president of Northern Seminary. “The Spirit is calling even more people to accept leadership responsibilities to meet these needs and share the gospel. We are committed to seeing believers, churches, communities, and seminaries thrive through affordable, accessible discipleship and leadership training. We are grateful that mission will be extended through our partnership with Lilly Endowment.” 

“Many pastors and lay ministers today don’t have access to quality resources that will help them develop as leaders,” said Dr. Jason Gile, executive director of Seminary Now. “Technology allows us to equip leaders from urban, rural, and marginalized communities and to empower them to lead us into a future that integrates biblically fidelity and historical accuracy with the complex social needs and cultural realities we face today.” 

Northern Seminary is one of 16 theological schools that has received grants to fund large-scale, highly collaborative programs through the third phase of the Pathways initiative. Lilly Endowment believes these programs have the potential to become models for other schools as they seek to strengthen the way they educate pastors and other congregational leaders. 

“Theological schools play an essential role in ensuring that Christian congregations have a steady stream of well-prepared leaders to guide their ministries,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies. These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.” 

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders. 

To learn more about Seminary Now or try a free course, visit 


About Northern Seminary 

Northern Seminary was founded in 1913 to educate Christian leaders to be personally whole and spiritually mature, biblically grounded and theologically competent, pastoral, evangelistic, and prophetic. Since that time, over 4,000 students have graduated; today, alumni serve in 50 states and 30 countries. Northern offers Masters and Doctoral degrees to students located across North America and around the globe through live-streaming classes and one-week, on-site intensive classes.  

 About Lilly Endowment Inc. 

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and 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 and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe. 


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