VTS awarded $1.25 million grant for Faith-filled Families initiative to help parents teach their children about faith

Date: August 21, 2023

The grant will fund a five-year project working with regional congregations that have a preschool to equip parents with the confidence and capacity to nurture the spirituality of their children.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug 21, 2023 – Virginia Theological Seminary’s (VTS) Faith-filled Families (FfF) initiative is launching a project to empower parents to teach their children about faith after receiving a $1.25 million grant.

FfF, which operates out of Lifelong Learning at VTS, was awarded a $1 million grant in October 2022 from Lilly Endowment Inc., through its Christian Parenting and Caregiving initiative. More recently, FfF received an additional $250,000 from the same organization to enhance and expand its work.

The money will fund a five-year action-research project focused on equipping preschools and congregations to support parents in the religious formation of their children. FfF will provide research-based resources and best practices to help parents share their faith and values with their children, while also nurturing their own faith.

Donna Sweeting, Director of FfF, said: “Parents and guardians are the primary architects of their children’s spiritual foundation, shaping not just their beliefs but the very essence of their souls. Faith-filled Families is designed to meet parents where they are, honor their strengths, hear their existential longing, and provide them with resources to aid them on their parenting journey. With an increased capacity to inspire, educate and guide, thanks to the additional grant funding, our program is poised to reach new heights of influence in fostering faith, values, and a profound spiritual connection within families.”

The initiative will work with 15 preschool-congregation sites of different denominations, all within a 100-mile radius of VTS. Parents will be given physical, digital, and practice resources, designed by the FfF team, professionals in the field and seminarians enrolled in VTS’ children’s spirituality classes. They will also have access to educational opportunities, and support groups to provide an environment in which they can share their experiences, seek guidance, and offer mutual support in their Christian parenting journey.

Throughout the project, non-invasive methods will be used to identify the specific needs, challenges and preferences of parents and early childhood care providers to ensure resources and support are tailored to meet these needs. The impact of the initiative on parents’ spiritual growth, as well as their children’s faith development, will also be tracked to understand Christian parenting more fully. The project’s findings will be published to encourage other sites to strengthen the ecology of children’s spiritual formation between parents, congregations and schools.

FfF is focusing on preschools housed in congregations to leverage the support of the broader church community, and to maintain sustained engagement with parents over an extended period, as they navigate different stages of their child’s growth and development. FfF believes the development of faith-forming ecosystems that are specific to the cultural environment of the stakeholders will lead to transformative ministries in the home, community of faith, and the community at large.


Notes to editors:

For media enquiries, please contact Nicky Burridge, Vice President for Communications at VTS.
Tel: (703) 461-1782

Mobile: (703) 300-2876
Email: nburridge@vts.edu

About Faith-filled Families:

Faith-filled Families: Christian Practices for Abundant Parenting is an initiative to support parents and communities working together to form children’s faith, with a focus on congregations with preschools. It operates out of Lifelong Learning at VTS and is funded through a five-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative.

About Lifelong Learning at Virginia Theological Seminary:

Lifelong Learning at VTS provides continuous theological education opportunities for individuals and lay and ordained leaders. Its multi-faceted program, which is grounded in theology and research-based practices, offers innovative approaches to current ministry challenges, and access to ministry resources, particularly for traditionally underserved populations.

About Virginia Theological Seminary:

Virginia Theological Seminary was founded in 1823 by St. Paul’s Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It is the strongest seminary in the Anglican Communion and has a long tradition of shaping faithful women and men, lay and ordained, for leadership in The Episcopal Church and beyond. The seminary provides more than 25 percent of the clergy of The Episcopal Church.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.:

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr., and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in the pharmaceutical business Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a 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 founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. Its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States.

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