Perkins Awarded $1 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Patton and Pope-Levison

Rev. Bart Patton and Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison

Five-year gift to focus on strengthening congregational ministries with youth

Perkins School of Theology is the recipient of a five-year, $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., for an initiative designed to strengthen congregational ministries with youth. Co-directors of the grant are the Rev. Bart Patton, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry Education, and Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison, Associate Dean, Office of External Programs.

Entitled “Reboot: The Congregation as Youth Worker,” the initiative will select and resource a cohort of congregations within a 300-mile radius of Dallas without a paid full-time youth worker. The initial cohort of 18 congregations — the “Starter Cohort” — will undergo a discovery process to determine the viability of ministries with youth in their communities and will be introduced to current innovation models for youth ministries. From this cohort, 12 congregations will be selected as the “Innovation Cohort” to apply for resources provided by the grant to build and sustain an innovative model for congregational ministry with youth.

The final objective is to share the findings, including processes, youth ministry models and stories derived from the cohort congregations and other project participants through public venues including online and print resources, the Perkins School of Youth Ministry, and a Finale Innovation Lab Symposium.

Applications for the Starter Cohort of 18 congregations will be accepted beginning May 8, 2019.

According to Rev. Patton the rapidly changing face of youth ministry in both rural and urban congregations was the impetus for this project.

“Youth ministry is at a significant juncture right now,” said the veteran of more than two decades as a youth worker. “We hope this new endeavor will provide new standards and rubrics to help congregations create, implement, sustain and measure youth ministry. It’s our hope that this fresh work will provide useful resources to congregations as they navigate ministry with adolescents in their communities.”

Shifting the focus from a full-time paid youth worker to a more comprehensive model in which the entire congregation sees itself as the center of ministry with youth is the key to this innovative project, according to Dr. Pope-Levison.

“As we envisioned the possibilities for this grant, we knew we wanted to empower under-resourced congregations in both rural and urban areas who could not rely on the paid youth worker model for youth ministry,” she said. “When we struck on the idea of centering the congregation itself as the youth worker, we knew we had struck gold. With the generous resources from Lilly Endowment, we want to explore how all congregations – no matter where they are located or what their budget is – can provide robust, transformative youth ministry.

“The financial and personnel resources that this grant makes possible will lead the way in rebooting youth ministry from the lone ranger approach of the paid youth worker to centering youth ministry as a congregational initiative and endeavor.”

For more information about the initiative, email Rev. Bart Patton.

Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2018