What is LEEAP?
LEEAP is an acronym for Local Evangelism, Envisioning and Planting board. Its call is to spread and grow local churches in the Illinois Conference. LEEAP oversees the start of new churches and partners with existing churches to revitalize them.
How is LEEAP Funded?
Funds come primarily from the sale of church properties from congregations that have disbanded and have given their properties to the Conference.
LEEAP also administers the funds generated by the Conference’s Capital Campaign, “Into the Future By the Spirit’s Power” which are designated for new church starts and revitalizing existing churches. Those funds are put into an endowment fund; interest generated is used for local church growth.
Several new church starts were given the building and property of former churches. Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland and The Church of the Open Door in Chicago are two churches that received properties given to the Conference.
If a property cannot be used by a new church start or a relocation, it is sold and the proceeds are put into the Church Extension Fund for use in funding new churches and revitalizing existing congregations.
How Do LEEAP Partnerships Work?
The National United Church of Christ’s Local Church Ministries Evangelism Team works with LEEAP and congregations that are starting or are beginning the process to revitalize themselves. This covenanted ministry partners with the Illinois Conference in funding those developments. Three partners working together means funds are channeled to help new churches sprout and established churches grow in vital ways.
How Do New Churches Get Started?
When churches move into the excitement of planning new church starts, the LEEAP Board is an integral part and partner. LEEAP may initiate demographic and feasibility studies for the suitability of new church starts. LEEAP may initiate proposals for new church starts within the conference. LEEAP recommends approval of funding applications to Conference Council and the national church.
In Partnership With The National Church
Local Church Ministries (a covenanted ministry of the United Church of Christ) and LEEAP are covenanting partners in the “Now is the Time for New Church Development” initiative. Rather than funding individual projects as previously done, LCM has made a two year $200,000 grant to LEEAP for doing new church development. Working along with an association, LEEAP forms a Support Teams for each new church start. That team collaborates with the new church start leadership in funding applications and preparations for standing in the United Church of Christ.
Can My Church Apply?
When existing churches begin to revision witness in their community, they can apply for a grant, grant mortgage or loan from LEEAP. That application describes the church’s project and vision for the future. The application describes the setting, demographic data of the area, potential growth factor, membership trends, worship attendance, budget, spiritual preparation, stewardship, and church organization.
Congregations or projects seeking funding are asked to have their pastor and a group of church leaders come to the LEEAP board to share their progress and answer questions. Site visits are done periodically to get a better understanding and feel for a particular ministry.
Churches seeking grants may be required to participate in a discernment and revisioning process or training to enable change prior to being funded. Revitalization projects are designed to do “a new thing.”
Are There Limits on Revitalization Grants?
LEEAP does not fund certain projects. Building renovation, making the church building accessible, equipment, including computers and software, and budget deficits are not eligible for LEEAP revitalization grants. LEEAP does not subsidize existing budgets or programs. Revitalization grants can be reapplied for and renewed up to three years. New church starts can apply for funding annually for up to five years.
What sorts of projects will LEEAP Help?
Funds may be allocated for projects where the community or the church has developed a vision, passion and plan for doing God’s mission in that community:
- a group of leaders gathering to form a new church where the United Church of Christ is a needed presence;
- an existing congregation wants to give birth to a new church and seeks Conference and Association counseling in its development;
- a congregation wants to renew its life and see what God is calling it to be and become;
- a non-affiliated church considers affiliation with the United Church of Christ and seeks mentoring to become part of the UCC;
- an existing church has developed a strategy for growth and outreach and needs a grant or loan to do something new to meet its exciting vision for evangelism.
Where Can a Church Apply to LEEAP?
(See funding information in interest section)
For information on funding and the application process, contact:
Rev. Michelle Hughes, Associate Conference Minister for Vitality, Transformation and Sustainability Telephone: (708) 344-4470
Chair, Rev. Jason Coulter
Chicago Metropolitan Association Representatives
2020– Rev. Kim Shelton
2020 – Rev. Harriet Dart
2021 – Rev. Beth Dickerson
Eastern Association Representatives
2021 – Rev. Pat Morton
Fox Valley Association Representatives
2020– Ms. Sinclair Gallagher
Prairie Association Representatives
2019 – Mr. Barry Mayworm
2020 – Ms. Pat Bastian
Western Association Representatives
2021 – Rev. Judy Kennedy
At Large Representatives
2019 – Mr. Joseph Huxley
Conference Staff Consulting
Associate Conference Minister, Rev. Michelle Hughes
Interim Conference Minister, Rev. Justo González II