West Ohio Conference has Received a $1 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative

West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church has received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Fear+Less Congregations Initiative (FCI). The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

West Ohio’s FCI seeks to create an environment that encourages personal and congregational transformation, allowing churches to choose hospitality over division, assets over deficiencies, and love over fear.

More than 1,000 West Ohio Conference congregations identify themselves in their respective contexts – urban, rural, suburban, and/or Appalachian yet most struggle to address the societal and cultural changes in their communities in ways that lead to growth. The FCI will guide congregations in ways that clearly define their vision as followers of Jesus and inspire an innovative approach to community connectedness.

West Ohio will partner with Fearless Dialogues, a grassroots organization that creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard, heartfelt conversations on taboo subjects. Since its founding in 2013, Fearless Dialogues has gathered nearly 20,000 people around the globe for community conversations in college classrooms, corporate boardrooms, church sanctuaries, and community centers.

“I am thrilled that the West Ohio Conference has received this generous grant from Lilly Endowment. With this grant and a partnership with Fearless Dialogues, we will be able to cross barriers that have prevented growth for us as individuals, local churches, and communities,” said West Ohio Bishop, Gregory V. Palmer.

The first Fear+Less Congregations Initiative cohort will begin in Spring 2021. For more information about the FCI, please contact Rev. Dee Stickley-Miner at 614-844-6200 ext. 239 or by email to: dstickley [at]

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through its Thriving Congregations Initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grantmaking in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.