Chris Lange, FISM News
At a time when reports on declining Christianity in the U.S. continue to grab headlines, one philanthropic organization is taking action to invest in the faith of future generations.
The Lilly Endowment recently donated $92 million to 77 Christian groups and organizations as part of its Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. Launched in 2022, the program aims to facilitate the development of home-based programs and parent networks to “nurture the spiritual growth of young people.”
“We’ve heard from many parents who are seeking to nurture the spiritual lives of their children, especially in their daily activities, and looking to churches and other faith-based organizations for support,” Lilly Endowment Vice President for Religion Christopher L. Coble said in a statement announcing the grants.
The private philanthropic organization cited recent research highlighting the pivotal role parents, grandparents, and caregivers play in children’s spiritual development as the impetus for the initiative.
Asbury Theological Seminary, Marquette University, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, College of the Ozarks, Wheaton College, and the University of Notre Dame are among the organizations that received grants ranging from $240,000 to $1.25 million. Grant money was also provided to local congregations and regional districts of national church groups.
“These thoughtful, creative and collaborative organizations embrace the important role that families have in shaping the religious development of children and are launching programs to assist parents and caregivers with this task,” Coble said of the grant recipients.
According to the endowment, the funds are being used for a variety of approaches, including intergenerational parent mentoring networks, peer-coaching programs, and training to help parents and caregivers gain confidence in sharing their faith with others.
A 2022 Lifeway Research study found that two-thirds of American Christians struggle with sharing their faith with others. Yet, at the same time, more than half (54%) said that they are either “willing” or “eager” to “[tell] others about Jesus Christ.”
Many of the organizations also offer resources to help families develop faith-building routines at home through family prayers, scripture readings, and celebrations.
Financial Issues producer Seth Udinski applauded the endowment’s example of leveraging financial resources for the Kingdom and the next generation of believers – a biblical undertaking upon which Financial Issues Ministries was founded.
“The Lilly Endowment Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative is a shining example of the biblical principle of leaving a legacy for children,” Udinski said. “This initiative gives parents the opportunity to put into practice the imperative of Proverbs 13:22, which says, ‘A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.’”
The Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative comes at a critical time in the nation when parents are placing far less emphasis on nurturing faith in the home than in previous generations. A Pew Research survey report released in January found that only 35% of parents believe that it is important to pass their faith onto their children. When asked about their aspirations for their children’s futures, an overwhelming majority of parents (88%) said that their top priorities are raising children who are career focused and financially independent.
“The greatest influence on a child is the first influence, the influence of Dad and Mom in the home,” Udinski said. “I celebrate this initiative that empowers parents to cultivate gospel-growth in their children, and I invite Christians around the country to do the same.”