Rural Church Grant Application & Eligibility

The Rural Church program area of The Duke Endowment uses a short pre-application process, which will help confirm your eligibility and guide you to the best application process for your proposed project.

Pre-application deadlines for Rural Church grants are May 10 and October 3. The pre-application portal will open approximately six weeks prior to these deadlines. Pre-applications cannot be accepted outside of these dates. 

Within a week of receiving your pre-application, The Duke Endowment will either invite you to submit a full application for the upcoming grant cycle, or inform you that your project does not align with current priorities, thereby concluding the process.

Pre-application deadlines for Rural Church grants are May 10 and October 3.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the Rural Church program area’s strategic priorities?

  1. Cultivate and support pastoral leaders; 
  2. Reimagine church real estate; 
  3. Build congregational capacity; 
  4. Identify and test selected programs. 

To learn more, visit the Rural Church program area page.

Q. Am I eligible for a Rural Church grant from The Duke Endowment?

A. Eligibility is determined by both strategic fit and the dictates of James B. Duke’s Indenture of Trust. An applicant must represent an eligible United Methodist Church or organization and the proposed project must fit within one of our strategic pathways.

Q. How is a church’s eligibility status determined?

A. In his Indenture of Trust, Mr. Duke stated that eligibility for rural church funding to churches in North Carolina was to be based on the population of the community in which the church is located according to the latest federal census.

Therefore, after data from each federal census is collected, the eligibility of all United Methodist churches in North Carolina is re-examined, and a new list of eligible churches in the state is published. Eligibility status is determined using one of our two approved definitions of rural.

Mr. Duke defined rural” as a town or community with a population of 1,500 or less. Churches in towns or communities with a population of 1,500 or less according to the latest federal census continue to be eligible to apply for grant funding in our priority areas. 

The Trustees of The Duke Endowment have approved an expanded definition to include churches in areas designated rural by the Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) code. RUCA codes were developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and are based on the commuting patterns of residents in individual census tracts.

See the eligibility list, which is based on the 2010 Census. This list is updated between decennial Federal Censuses to account only for eligible church closures or eligible new church starts based on actions of the Annual Conferences of North Carolina United Methodism. 

Q. Why does the Endowment only support rural United Methodist Churches in North Carolina?

A. Our founder, James B. Duke, was raised in a Methodist family, and he saw and appreciated the impact that churches and their pastors had on rural North Carolina communities. The Dukes were strong supporters of the church and of its various activities. They understood that in rural areas, churches were often the strongest and most effective community institutions.

Q. Does the Endowment award grants to other Methodist denominations, such as Evangelical Methodist or African Methodist Episcopal churches?

A. No. In keeping with Mr. Duke’s instructions, rural church grants can be made only to United Methodist churches.

Q. How do retired United Methodist pastors apply for pension grants from the Endowment?

A. No application is needed. These grants are made annually to the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church to distribute to eligible pastors and their families on record with them.

Learn more about the Endowment’s new Zero to Eight emphasis.

Funding Strategies

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Cultivate and Support Pastoral Leaders

We support programs that recruit and retain candidates for ministry; nurture clergy growth and competencies including cultural sensitivity and racial equity; and support training for district superintendents to develop missional strategies that strengthen connections between churches and their communities. We believe that doing so benefits rural communities across the state.

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Reimagine Church Real Estate

We support conversations that help rural congregations make informed decisions about how to optimize their assets and use them as catalysts for community-focused ministry. Using real estate in ways that meet community needs and increase usefulness of facilities can increase connections between church and community and increase vitality for both.

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Build Congregational Capacity

In healthy churches, clergy and laity maintain strong awareness of their community and ties to it. We support programs that engage rural congregations with their neighbors to identify and implement solutions that could have a lasting, positive impact on their rural region. 

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Identify and Test Selected Programs

We identify, develop, test and share programs that have demonstrated positive outcomes, with a special focus on children. Simultaneously, we provide funding for churches to implement these programs.