The University of Mount Olive has received two grants totaling $2,492,000 from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc., to fund two important ministry-related initiatives.
“These are extraordinary gifts!” said UMO President Dr. H. Edward Croom. “On behalf of our University, I am grateful to Lilly Endowment for recognizing the potential of our initiatives, which align so well with our faith-based mission.”
Three years ago, the University began its journey towards church outreach with The Mantle Bearers Project, which aids rural and small-congregation clergy through participation in interpersonal and professional growth opportunities alongside other clergy from diverse ecumenical backgrounds. As a result of this, the University began to observe parallel needs within congregational spaces, including the equipping of parents as models of faith development, and the desire for congregations to better connect with their communities.
From these observations, the University developed two initiative proposals, The Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative and the Thriving Congregations Initiative, both of which have been funded by Lilly Endowment. Lilly Endowment made a $1,248,000 grant through its Thriving Congregations Initiative and a $1,244,400 grant through its Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative.
Lilly Endowment launched the Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting efforts to help individuals and families from diverse Christian communities draw more fully on the wisdom of Christian practices to fully live out their faith and pass on a vibrant faith to a new generation.
“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,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s Vice President for Religion. “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.”
UMO plans to use the $1,244,400 five-year Christian Parenting and Caregiving grant to establish cohort-based and site-training models to equip parents, caregivers, children, and their congregational leaders in how faith develops across adolescence. “Special emphasis will be placed upon trauma-informed care and historically-anchored faith formative practices,” said UMO’s Thriving in Ministry Director, Dustin Bannister.
The $1,248,000 received from the Thriving Congregations Initiative will be used to encourage the flourishing of congregations by helping them deepen their relationships with God, enhance their connections with each other, and contribute to the vitality of their communities and the world.
“Congregations play an essential role in deepening the faith of individuals and contributing to the vitality of communities,” said Coble. “We hope that these programs will nurture the vibrancy and spark the creativity of congregations, helping them imagine new ways to share God’s love in their communities and across the globe.”
According to Bannister, the University will utilize community-cohort models across ecumenical congregations to ask the question, “What is God calling us to do within our own community, and how might we best approach these needs for the sake of the Kingdom?”
“Rural ministry is a unique type of ministry, and rural congregations often play a large role in the development of individuals and their community spaces,” Bannister said. “Through this work, we anticipate that we will be able to walk alongside rural, eastern NC congregations as they seek to discover God’s call in their lives. Furthermore, through the empowerment and equipping of parents and their children for faith development, we believe we can strengthen families, which will, in turn, strengthen congregations, which will ultimately allow them to do the work of the Kingdom of God in their own backyards.”
The University of Mount Olive is one of 125 organizations that have received grants through the Christian Parenting initiative and one of 105 organizations that have received grants through a competitive round of the Thriving Congregations initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity and Christian traditions in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Pentecostal faith communities.
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private 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 its home state, Indiana. A 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. The Endowment also 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.