In Synod News

South Dakota Synod Awarded $1.1 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment

December 5, 2023 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota – The South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) announced today that it has been awarded a grant of $1,137,384 from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Thriving Congregations Initiative.

The grant will be used by the Synod to live fully its vision of “Journeying Together in Christ,” by relating to congregations with intentionality, equipping leaders for ministry, networking across the church and advocating for shared leadership especially among our rural and frontier congregations.

This grant will be used in two focus areas. First, it will be used to engage rural and frontier congregations by leveraging robust digital technologies to create a Synod-wide Community Hub for eLearning, Resources and Conversation. Next, it will be used to engage congregations with innovative Rural Immersion Ministries which will create congregational learning experiences designed to recognize and bridge the rural/urban cultural divide.

These projects are being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.

“I am overjoyed about the grant,” said Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, Bishop of the South Dakota Synod. “It signifies that the Journeying in Christ vision and mission the congregations of the South Dakota Synod have cast and embody is relevant for the emerging church in our context. I am grateful to Lilly Endowment for supporting our vision through its generous engagement.”

The award will be dispersed over four years, with the Synod contributing $240,000 over the same period to support the creation, staffing, and administration of Community Hub and Rural Immersion Ministries.

The South Dakota Synod is one of 105 organizations that has received grants though a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations Initiative. Reflecting a wide variety of Christian traditions, the organizations represent mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, peace church and Pentecostal faith communities.

“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”

About the South Dakota Synod
The South Dakota Synod is one of 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), representing almost 200 congregations and worshiping communities and over 93,000 members. For more information, visit

About Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private 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, it 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. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking 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 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.