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News | Dr. Leighton Ford (Mentoring)

LFM Receives Nearly $1 Million from Lilly Endowment, Inc.

January 19, 2021

CHARLOTTE – Leighton Ford Ministries has received a grant of $999,748 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Mentoring Communities for Thriving Pastors program.

Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry initiative helps organizations create or strengthen programs that support local pastors by helping them build relationships with other clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in church ministry.

The grant will support Leighton Ford Ministries in training approximately fifty experienced pastors to serve as mentors and launching approximately 40 new mentoring communities supporting 320-400 pastors of smaller churches, congregations of color, and new churches (church plants).  Leighton Ford Ministries will also gather and engage senior advisors to provide additional coaching, resources, and counsel.

“Pastoral ministry is currently marked by change,” said Kevin Ford, Chief Catalyst for Leighton Ford Ministries.  “Pastors in the United States are dealing with immediate change forced by COVID-19 and systemic change in a deeply divided society.  The stress, even for the healthiest pastor, is enormous.  Our ministry is focused on providing pastors with an experienced ‘friend on the journey’ to help navigate common challenges, triumphs, and transitions.”

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States.  This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion.  “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives.  These promising programs, including the Mentoring Communities for Thriving Pastors program from Leighton Ford Ministries, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

Lilly Endowment will provide seed money to launch the new mentoring program.  Leighton Ford Ministries will work with other community partners and interested individuals to raise additional funds to continue the program beyond the grant window.

“More than thirty years ago, God called me from the bright lights of the Billy Graham association to a behind-the-scenes ministry of mentoring young ministry leaders, said Leighton Ford, Founding President of Leighton Ford Ministries.  “Thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment and the fresh leadership of my son, Kevin, I am grateful to see this unique vision of safe times, safe places, and safe friends for ministry leaders grow to strengthen and impact so many more pastors … and through these pastors, their churches and communities.  To God be the glory!”


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & 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.  The Endowment maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state of Indiana.  Its grantmaking in religion focuses on supporting efforts to strengthen the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations throughout the country and to increase the public’s understanding of the role of religion in public life.


Leighton Ford Ministries is a Charlotte-based, international ministry focused on mentoring healthy leaders who support thriving ministries for the sake of the Gospel.  Founded by Leighton Ford, brother-in-law of Billy Graham and former Chair of the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization, LFM supports more than 30 mentoring communities worldwide impacting nearly 500 ministry leaders, including local church pastors, women ministering in the inner city, leaders of internationally-known ministries, and former inmates now involved in prison ministry.  LFM also provides visioning, strategic planning, governance, and transition consulting services for churches throughout the United States.  Leighton’s son, Kevin Ford, author of Transforming Church and The Leadership Triangle, joined LFM as Chief Catalyst in 2019.


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