The Center for Congregational Resources has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. as part of their Thriving Congregations initiative. The aim of Thriving Congregations is to “help congregations strengthen their ministries and thrive so they can better help people deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other and contribute to the flourishing of their communities and the world.”

The goal of the Center’s initiative, which started in 2021, is to help churches reach renewed vitality as they navigate the unfolding social and cultural changes in their contexts. The Center will facilitate a cohort of Birmingham-area congregations that will engage in a multi-year learning process with the goal of calibrating or recalibrating the ministries of their churches as they respond to new challenges. We will use a learning plan that invites calibrating the church’s mission, vision and values, examining the needs of the local community, discerning corporate and individual calling, and grounding these efforts in the practices of worship and spiritual disciplines. This learning plan will encompass seminars, workshops, lectures, clergy peer learning groups, shared worship and other opportunities for mutual learning.

In May of 2023, the first cohort of 11 congregations concluded their programming and a total of $212,311 was awarded to support new or recalibrated ministries.  The second cohort will begin in August of 2023. Interested congregations may complete the Interest Form below. 


The goals of the initiative are:

  1. Engage  congregations representing diverse faith traditions, sizes, and geographic locations within Greater Birmingham and across Alabama.
  2. Create peer learning groups of pastors from participating churches for the purposes of shared wisdom, encouragement, and learning on selected topics related to effective pastoral leadership.
  3. Engage congregations in an incremental educational plan designed to facilitate the processes of discovering, learning, assessing, identifying, and imagining that will lead to formulation and implementation of action plans tailored to the individual congregations.
  4. Provide opportunity for some congregations to receive financial support for use in implementing their recalibration strategies.


If selected to participate, no cost will be incurred by the clergy or congregation. The cost of all meetings, workshops, lectures, clergy peer meetings, learning community meetings, etc. will be provided by the CCR.

The term of the second cohort is Fall 2023-Spring 2025. It is an expectation that selected churches will participate for the duration of the initiative.

Center Resource Strategists will be available to assist churches in the program initiatives and recalibration strategies.

Travel to either Samford’s campus or other designated locations for clergy peer groups, peer learning communities, and other group meetings will be required of the pastor and/or congregational teams.

Participating congregations may anticipate various meetings and/or gatherings to occur quarterly during the program initiative.

Participating churches may be eligible to receive financial support in Spring of 2025. The amount of funds will be dependent on the estimated costs of recalibration strategies developed through participation in the learning community.


Dr. Scott Cormode, the Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development at Fuller Theological Seminary, delivered a lecture from his latest book The Innovative Church, How Leaders and Their Congregations Can Adapt in an Ever-Changing World.

The Center hosted Dr. Cormode on Samford’s campus October 9, 2021. The lecture is divided into three individual sessions which are hosted on the Center’s Vimeo page using the links below. Also included in the lecture is a presentation by Samford’s Dr. Jennifer McClure on community demographics.