Sabbatical Grant for Researchers

The Sabbatical Grant for Researchers (SGR) offers grants up to $40,000 to assist research and writing projects that will advance religious and theological scholarship in ways that also address practical issues concerning Christian faith and life, pastoral leadership, and/or religious institutions. Typically, applicants are fully employed in accredited academic institutions and eligible for up to a full academic year leave from teaching and administrative responsibilities.

Application Deadline: November 1, 2021

Timeframe: Fall Term 2022 thru spring term 2023
OR calendar year 2023

Grant Amount: Up to $40,000

2022 SGR Application Guide

Apply for a Sabbatical Grant for Researchers now.

Louisville Institute’s Sabbatical Grant for Researchers program (SGR) enables ecclesially-engaged academics and scholarly religious leaders to conduct a major study that can contribute to the vitality of Christianity in North America. Grants of up to $40,000 support year-long research projects that address Christian faith and life, the practice of ministry, and/or adaptive challenges confronting religious institutions.

Previous SGR Grants


The Sabbatical Grant for Researchers program is open to both academic and pastoral leaders who are based in the United States or Canada. While pastoral leaders are eligible to apply to the SGR program, their proposals will likely be more competitive in the Pastoral Study Project program.

Preference given to applicants who are fully employed in accredited academic institutions and eligible for a full academic year leave from teaching and administrative duties. For the 2022 SGR, funding will be available beginning May 1, 2022.

Applicants must have earned the terminal degree in their chosen vocation. For pastors, this is typically the Master of Divinity degree; for academics it is usually the Ph.D. or Th.D. Note that grant funding does not support tuition or degree program expenses. All applicants must demonstrate a capacity to complete the proposed project in a timely fashion.

Proposed projects may employ a variety of methodological perspectives, including, but not limited to, historical, systematic and practical theology, the social sciences, history, ethics, or biblical studies. They may also be interdisciplinary in nature. All applicants should make clear how their project will contribute to the life of the church in North America.

Previous LI grantees are eligible and encouraged to apply; however, all program and financial reports for any previous grants must be submitted prior to November 1st. Applicants may only apply to one Louisville Institute grant program within the same grant year (June 1-May 31).

Louisville Institute grants cannot be awarded to members of the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary Board, faculty, administration, staff, or student body, or to any of their immediate family members (parents, spouse, or children). Institute Board members themselves and members of their immediate families are ineligible to receive Louisville Institute grants.

Questions about eligibility may be sent to Jessica Bowman.

SGR Feasibility Feedback

LI is glad to provide brief initial feedback to help you determine if your SGR project idea fits our funding criteria. Consultation does not guarantee funding. However, staff feedback can help you discern whether to develop your ideas into a full grant proposal.

Before contacting us, please do the following:

    • Describe your institutional context (2-3 sentences).
    • State your project’s core question — framed as a question — and say why it is important to the church in North America (one paragraph).
    • Identify how you plan to investigate this question, indicating potential research strategies (2-3 paragraphs).
    • Share your outline with several trusted colleagues and incorporate their feedback.

After completing these steps, email your brief project outline (500 words maximum) to the Associate Director with the subject “SGR feedback.” We will respond to all feedback requests submitted prior to October 1.

SGR Application Requirements

In order for an application to be considered for a grant, applicants must go to APPLY on our website and submitted all application materials no later than 11:59pm on November 1, 2021. Letters of Recommendations must be submitted by the recommender by November 8, 2021. If you encounter problems, contact Jessica Bowman.

Applications must include:

    • Applicant Information (time frame, amount, etc.)
    • Project Quotation: If you only had one sentence to say about your project, what would you say?
    • Core Question: In 1-3 sentences, state your project’s core question—framed as a question—and say why it is important to the church in North America.
    • Project Summary: Summarize your project in approximately 200 words.
    • Proposal Narrative: In approximately 5-7 pages (12-point and double-spaced) describe your proposal in detail, using the following outline:
        • Core Question: What is the primary question being addressed (stated as a question)?
        • Rationale: Why is the proposed topic important to you and to the Christian church?  What are the consequences if this issue is not investigated and responded to? The proposed research should be framed with reference to relevant scholarship and its significance.
        • Plan: How do you intend to study and investigate the concern? Include a description of the way in which you will conduct the inquiry: field work if appropriate, travel and other resources necessary to complete the project.
        • Dissemination: Who is your audience for this research? How do you plan to share your research with them? What oral forms of dissemination fit the project (e.g. sermons, education venues, speeches, conference papers)? What written forms of dissemination fit the project (e.g., essay, article, book, other possible publication venues)?
        • Impact: What personal, intellectually, and spiritual impacts do you see for yourself in engaging in this project? What benefits will come to your institution and to the larger church?
        • Timeframe: What is the schedule and timeframe for the project?
    • Selective bibliography of the main sources to be read (2-3 pages double-spaced)
    • Detailed budget and budget narrative – see 2022 SGR Application Guide
    • Curriculum Vitae or résumé (no more than 4 pages).
    • Two Letters of Recommendation (Colleague and Assessing Project Feasibility) and Letter of Release: When uploading your application materials, please provide the names, email addresses and phone numbers for your recommenders. LI will immediately email those recommenders with a link to submit their documents online. Applicants should contact their recommenders in advance to explain procedures and guidelines. Letters of Recommendation must to be submitted by November 8.
      • Letter of Recommendation from Colleague: Your Colleague letter should come from someone – either within or outside your institution – who can provide a candid assessment of your reliability and capacity to carry out the proposed project. Your recommender should describe how your previous work demonstrates skills needed to conduct this study and coordinate this Sabbatical Grant for Researchers. In what ways might this project strengthen the church in North America?
      • Letter Assessing Project Feasibility: Your Feasibility letter should come from someone who can provide a candid assessment of the need for this project, the feasibility of this project, and the distinctiveness of this project in light of what others are doing or have already done. Your recommender will tell us how you are well-suited to undertake this venture and why the proposed project has relevance for the church in North America — Why is this a living question that we must address to insure the vitality of North American Christian congregations?
      • Letter of Release:  The applicant’s academic dean or chairperson confirms release from teaching and academic responsibilities in the event a grant is awarded.

Review and Selection Process

Every year the Louisville Institute Board appoints a selection committee to review proposals and award Sabbatical Grant for Researchers grants. Committee membership and deliberations remain confidential.

Applicants whose projects are not funded will be notified by mail as soon as possible following the adjudication process. Due to the large number of applications the Institute receives, LI Board and staff members do not provide additional feedback on declined proposals.

Duration of Award and Stipend

Research periods supported by this grant may range from nine months to one year. The grant amount requested should not exceed $40,000. Normally, the Louisville Institute will pay the grant directly to the institutions of those selected. The Louisville Institute allows up to 10 percent indirect costs based on the total direct costs of the project. Awards will be announced on or before February 15, 2022.


Applicants must be released from all professional duties during the grant period. Academic applicants eligible for a sabbatical leave and/or a release from all teaching and administrative responsibilities during the grant year should indicate that fact in their proposal. Pastors should be released from all employment duties during the entire grant period. Academic and pastoral applicants who cannot be released from all professional duties should indicate in their proposals how they plan to devote sufficient time to the proposed project. In many cases, for example, this may require a course buyout or some other reduction in teaching load or a buyout of a certain number of Sundays for pastors. Louisville Institute grantees may not simultaneously hold two grants from Lilly Endowment-funded organizations that total more than $45,000.

An added benefit of being awarded a Sabbatical Grant for Researchers is that all grantees will be invited and encouraged — though not required — to attend the Institute’s annual Winter Seminar. This three-day consultation, held January 2023 (exact dates & location TBD), convenes grant recipients from four different Institute programs to share their project plans and receive constructive feedback.