Worshiping Communities



Program Overview

Vital Worship, Vital Preaching Grants for worshiping communities allow a wide range of Christian worshiping communities to focus on projects that connect public worship with Christian discipleship and faith formation.

Purpose: Our aim is to support year-long projects that show promise in fostering renewed or strengthened worship practices within worshiping communities in the United States or Canada. (See also: Vital Worship, Vital Preaching Grants for teacher-scholars.)

Grant amounts: Funding awards range from $8,000 to $25,000.

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Who Is Eligible for a Worshiping Communities Grant?

We encourage both emerging and established worshiping communities to develop grant proposals using a collaborative process. Christian communities eligible for grants include:

  • New churches and church plants
  • Established congregations and parishes
  • Seminaries, colleges, and religious schools
  • Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice centers
  • Prison and correctional center ministries
  • Other Christian worshiping communities

Organizations eligible for the grant program must be based in the United States or Canada and must present proof of their tax-exempt status with their application.

Any group or team with leadership roles related to the worship life of a Christian church or nonprofit organization in the United States or Canada is welcome to apply. Teams can include pastors, educators, church staff, musicians, artists, architects, actors, dancers, scholars, and more.

Note: The team should have the support of the senior pastor or key administrator of the organization. We’ve learned that including such leaders in the process increases the likelihood that a project will meet or exceed its goals.

How Long Is the Grant Program?

The grant program takes place over the course of one year. Many congregations and other worshiping communities with whom we’ve worked have discovered that a year spent focusing on worship can revitalize their ability to share the good news of the gospel.

In addition, these projects have taught us that when communities focus on worship, others are drawn to worship with them. Therefore, even though the grant project lasts for just one year, a Vital Worship, Vital Preaching grant can plant seeds that continue to grow long after the project ends.

What Types of Projects Can Receive Grants?

Worshiping communities grant projects can focus on a variety of Christian worship practices, including the following:

  • Bible reading
  • Preaching/sermon/homily
  • Public prayer
  • Baptism
  • Lord’s Supper/communion/Eucharist
  • Congregational music and singing
  • Visual arts
  • Storytelling
  • Universal design and responsive design for worship
  • Cultural engagement
  • And more!

Here are a few examples of projects this grant program has funded for worshiping communities:

  • In-depth study of the theology of worship in relation to worship practices
  • Study of baptism or the Lord’s Supper and how these sacraments connect with the life of the community
  • Exploration of the Psalms and how they shape lyrics and music in worship
  • Collaboration between pastors and lay leaders to plan worship that integrates sermons with other aspects of worship or congregational life
  • A year-long process exploring ways to use the unique gifts of members of all ages in planning and leading worship

How Are Grant Proposal Assessed?

All grant proposals are evaluated by the Vital Worship, Vital Preaching Grants Advisory Board. Evaluators look for projects that meet defined guidelines.

Requirements: In general, an eligible project will meet the following criteria:

  • It has the potential to generate renewed interest and energy for public worship at the local, grassroots level.
  • It is linked with the worship life of a particular congregation or worshiping community.
  • It includes a component of theological reflection on public worship’s meaning and purpose.
  • It is inspired by a vision and is realistic in nature.

Preferred elements: Although we don’t require the following elements, we give preference to projects for which any of these statements are true:

  • Collaboration is a focal point; the project brings people together for study, planning, and creating.
  • The project brings new learning into a community through a speaker series and a study of books or other resources.
  • Communities with limited financial resources are directly involved.
  • The program has the potential to model vital worship for other worshiping communities.
  • The group leading the project has a plan for sharing the results of the program.
  • The project is designed to nourish intergenerational or multicultural communities rather than dividing worshipers into groups.

What Do These Grants Not Support?

In general, the following elements are not supported as part of a grant project:

  • Grants to individuals
  • Compensation for staff or volunteers for planning, teaching, or administration beyond 20% of the total grant
  • Equipment costs in excess of 10% of the total grant
  • Production and replication of CDs, DVDs, books, and videos for sale
  • Building renovations and other construction costs
  • Food costs not connected to worship-related reflection or learning
  • Attending or hosting a conference, concert, camp, or other one-time event that is not part of a larger year-long learning process

Developing a Grant Proposal

The process for developing a grant proposal for your worshiping community’s project has several steps:

1. Gather a Collaborative Team

Developing your grant proposal should be a group effort. Therefore, the first step is to gather a group from your organization’s leadership and community who can explore and learn about worship together.

2. Identify a Project Director

From your group, select a project director. The project director’s main roles are to administer the grant project and be the point of contact with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

3. Study What Vital Worship Means

Review the following resources as you consider your grant proposal.

Required Reading:

Additional Resources:

4. Discuss Your Context

The SWOT assessment tool—which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats—will help your project team assess the context of the proposal. Assessing these factors about your community will help you determine the best path to success for your project.

[Insert button reading “Find the SWOT Tool”]

Use these guiding questions to start the conversation about your community’s context.


  • What does your worshiping community do really well?
  • What do congregants and visitors remark on as gifts your community possesses?
  • How does your community bring glory to God?
  • What does your community do to affirm the gifts of God’s people?
  • Does your community have unique resources that others might not have?


  • In which areas of ministry does your organization most often falter?
  • Which activities do you find hard to sustain?
  • In what areas of ministry do you feel you lack the appropriate gifts or resources?
  • Which potential directions have the highest likelihood of resistance, in both your community and your leadership?
  • How do your members deal with change?


  • What opportunities for ministry exist that you haven’t pursued yet?
  • Are there possible matches you can see between the gifts God has given you and the needs in your community?
  • Which populations might you address more in your community?
  • What resources and connections do you have that you could tap into?
  • Where do you see potential energy for new ideas and activities?


  • What challenges and obstacles might you face during this project?
  • Which attitudes or trends might endanger new ideas and initiatives in your community?
  • Are there any economic or demographic trends that might affect you negatively now, or in the future?
  • Where might there be resistance to new initiatives?

5. Refine Your Ideas

The following resources will help you develop your grant proposal. Search our database of past grants and sample proposals to get started:

If after reading these materials you are uncertain whether your project idea fits, you may request a consultation with the CICW grants team. To schedule a consultation, email worshipgrants@calvin.edu.

6. Apply for a Grant

Create an account in our Grant Management System. To complete your profile, you will need your organization’s tax ID number.

Enter your answers to the application questions. Note that the system allows you to:

  • Save your work and return to it later
  • Preview the full application before submitting it
  • Create a PDF of the proposal form to share with others


In 2023 we increased the number of grant start dates per year to three, with application deadlines now occurring every four months. Grant project timelines are subject to change in following years.

Proposals Due

Oct. 15, 2023

Feb. 15, 2024

June 15, 2024

Approved Grants Announced

Dec. 15, 2023

April 15, 2024

Aug. 15, 2024

Letter of Agreement Due
First 50% of grant funds sent after Letter of Agreement is received.

Jan. 1, 2024

May 1, 2024

Sept. 1, 2024

Program Work Begins

Jan. 1, 2024

May 1, 2024

Sept. 1, 2024

Mid-Year Report with Budget Due

Second half of grant funds sent after Mid-Year Report is received.

July 1, 2024

Nov. 1, 2024

March 1, 2025

Final Report with Budget Due

Jan. 1, 2025

May 1, 2025

Sept. 1, 2025