McAfee School of Theology Awarded Lilly Endowment Grant to Fund New Center for Teaching Churches

statue of jesse mercer sitting on a bench

ATLANTA — Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded a five-year, $1 million grant to Mercer University’s James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology to establish the McAfee Center for Teaching Churches, building on a previous grant that funded a pilot Transition-into-Ministry project.

The new center will enable McAfee to sustain its work in helping young ministers make the transition from theological education to full-time ministry. The previous Endowment grant allowed McAfee to provide resources for young ministers, including a supervising pastor, a peer group, a congregation-based Clinical Pastoral Education program, and a resident support committee.

Other objectives of the Center are to bridge the gulf between theological institutions and churches, strengthen the preparation of graduates for the practical, professional dimensions of congregational ministry, and integrate churches more effectively into the formation of ministers. Ultimately, the Center aims to build a new model for addressing all of these needs in a comprehensive fashion. The McAfee Center for Teaching Churches will provide unique opportunities for all participants: the young minister in his or her first full-time ministry, supervising pastors, congregations, and the School of Theology.

“With the Center for Teaching Churches, the McAfee School of Theology is breaking new ground. This Center will provide a network of support for both graduates and churches while bringing new voices from the church into the process of nurturing young ministers,” said Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, dean of the School of Theology. “I predict that just as churches have discovered the vitality of firsthand experience in missions through mission trips in recent decades, in the decade ahead churches engaged with McAfee through this Center will rediscover their calling to participate in the education of ministers for congregational leadership.”

Dr. James Neil (Dock) Hollingsworth Jr., assistant dean and assistant professor of supervised ministry at McAfee, will serve as executive director of the Center for Teaching Churches. A national search is under way for a second, full-time staff position for the Center.

“Because of the commitment of our partner churches, we are poised to create a model of collaboration that is going to strengthen our school, our graduates and our churches for years to come,” Dr. Hollingsworth said. “The Endowment’s funding has allowed us to dream boldly about how this exciting project can make the biggest difference.”

For more information about the McAfee Center for Teaching Churches, contact Dr. Hollingsworth at (678) 547-6473 or at

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. The Endowment is, however, a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. It is devoted to the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment supports a wide variety of efforts to enhance the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes. Funding is provided also to help identify, recruit, call and nurture into Christian ministry a new generation of talented pastors. The Endowment also funds projects designed to promote informed dialogue about religion in American life, generate new knowledge, communicate fresh insights, and renew and sustain vital institutions of American Christianity

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit