ELCA and the Network Receive Lilly Grant for Faith Formation

CHICAGO (Jan. 18, 2023) — The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), partnered with the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Formation Lab Project.

The goal of the project is to help congregations move past prescriptive, outdated models of youth ministry that often separate youth from the vital faith practices they need if they are to embrace God as the center of their life in today’s world. Through the Formation Lab, the ELCA and the ELCA Youth Ministry Network (the Network) will create and nurture adaptive youth ministry models that allow congregations to discern and implement what innovation looks like in their own contexts while uniting them around a shared understanding of future ministry. 

The grant will enable the ELCA and the Network to discover diverse models and practices by accompanying 50 key congregations in different cohorts; equip 3,000 leaders for leading ministry with younger generations; and provide ELCA congregations with accessible and affordable resources.

“Our aim is to reach every congregation in the ELCA with a desire to nurture the faith formation of youth, engaging them more fully with the stories and practices of our faith,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop.

“This is an exciting collaboration between the ELCA and the Youth Ministry Network for the sake of finding new ways to engage youth and help them to find and grow in faith,” said the Rev. Philip Hirsch, ELCA executive director for Christian Community and Leadership. “The bulk of the resources will be utilized by the Network, who will test ideas and share what they learn.” 

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s “Strengthening Ministries With Youth” initiative. 

Catherine Anderson

“We are excited about discovering new possibilities for ministry and then creating ways to effectively train both adult and young people in leadership that leads to dynamic congregational faith formation,” said Rev. Todd Buegler, executive director of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. “The world has shifted quickly, and congregations need to find new methods if young people are going to develop a life-changing faith.”

The Formation Lab project will be directed by Catherine Anderson, who has served as synod minister for discipleship and Christian community in the ELCA Northeastern Minnesota Synod. 

“Catherine has a wealth of experience and a unique skill set that will move this project forward,” said Buegler. “She has a passion for the faith of young people and is gifted at training adult leaders.”

The Strengthening Ministries With Youth initiative is part of Lilly Endowment’s long-standing interest in supporting projects that nurture the faith of young people and their families and foster the growth and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 3 million members in more than 8,700 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. The ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

About the Network:
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in close partnership with the ELCA. Its mission is to strengthen and empower adult children, youth and family ministry leaders in service to Christ. It hosts the annual “Extravaganza” and provides many other resources to strengthen congregational faith formation. More information on the Network can be found at elcaymnet.org.

About Lilly Endowment:
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. In addition, the endowment seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.Buchbinder@elca.org

Rev. Todd Buegler
612-460-5345
Todd@elcaymnet.org  

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