Lilly Grant – Thriving in Ministry

In 2018, the synod was awarded a grant through the Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative. This grant was designed to equip three specific groups of the synod’s rostered ministers:

  • Those interested in senior/executive leadership of large congregations (Kubernesis Seminar);
  • Those in years 4-10 of public ministry (Second Act Cohort); and
  • Leaders who identify as people of color (Leaders of Color Cohort).


Click here to read the executive summary. We are now in our final program year of this grant. Interruptions due to the pandemic and shifts in program leadership have impacted each of our participants and the program, but together we have explored what it means to be vibrant and resilient as leaders in the challenges of our time.


2022-2023 finally saw several meaningful gatherings for our participants. Relationships were built, projects and challenges were shared, strong mentors walked with participants, and skilled facilitators guided them through learning and reflection.

Kubernesis Seminar

Our Kubernesis Seminar group took a capstone sailing trip in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. They were joined by two senior leaders (retired pastors from our synod, Glenn Berg-Moberg and Rich Larson) who were brought into the experience to deepen the reflection of participants and assist in the integration of aggregate learnings. Also included was Anna Marsh, the previous grant director. Anna had been with this cohort from the start and it was a gift to the participants to have her present for this final leg of their journey. In Greek, the word Kubernesis is related to “steering a ship” and an actual sailing trip became the grounding experience and metaphor for the life of faith and leadership.

Second Act Cohort

The second cycle of the Second Act Cohort met monthly with two Bible scholars (Corrine L. Carvalho, Ph.D., and Diane L. Jacobson, Ph.D.) who facilitated deep reflection and conversation around Scripture. Participants worked closely with mentors exploring their capacity for deep reflection on life, service and the world. They also invested grant funding in congregational projects centered around scripture and in personal enrichment including spiritual direction, retreats and continuing education.

Leaders of Color Cohort

Our leaders of color cohort members were offered opportunity for rest and renewal and then gathered for a re-treat in Sedona, Ariz., facilitated by Rev. Aqueelah Ligonde, D.Min. Participants at the retreat identified and pre-sented to synod staff assets and challenges they see within our synod as leaders of color. They named the values that they see as operative within our synod, and they identified key action steps for their flourishing in the life of the synod, both as a cohort and in relationship with synod staff. Participants shared appreciation for the opportunity for “deep introspection,” the time and space to truly connect with peers, and the openness of the synod staff to receive feedback and calls for deeper collaboration.



Current Participants


Second Act Cohort - Round Two (2022-2023):

The Rev. Steve Biedermann – Zion, Cottage Grove
The Rev. Lindsey Bina – Shepherd of the Valley, Apple Valley
Deacon Nina Joygaard – Faith, Forest Lake
The Rev. Caroline Harthun-Wooldridge – Faith, St. Paul
The Rev. Kim Kyllo – St. John’s, Lakeville
The Rev. Brice Bloxham – Shepherd of the Hills, Shoreview
The Rev. Mollie Dvorak – St. Mark’s, Circle Pines
The Rev. Wendy Steger – All Saints, Eagan
The Rev. Kelli Weiss – Mt. Calvary, Eagan


Contact Leslie Ortiz, Lilly Grant Program Director