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Thrive Receives $1.2 Million Boost

August 16, 2023

As Christian Reformed congregations reemerge from the pandemic, some ministry leaders are sharing that traditional, building-based programming for children is no longer meeting family needs. This poses a pivotal opportunity and challenge for churches, requiring them to recenter the role of parents and caregivers in order to strengthen family-based practices in faith formation efforts with children.

The CRCNA has received a $1.248 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. for Thrive, an agency of the denomination dedicated to congregational support, to meet those needs. 

Thrive’s program is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative, which aims to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children. Thrive is one of 77 organizations that are receiving grants through this competitive round of funding. 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 live out their faith fully and well, passing on a vibrant faith to a new generation.

Aligning with this vision, Thrive’s initiative is designed to strengthen the partnership between church and home when it comes to the faith formation of children. As part of this program, Thrive also seeks to accelerate and amplify support of children’s ministry leaders in Christian Reformed congregations and develop resources these leaders can use to encourage and equip parents.

A top priority of this initiative is to create space for active listening.

Thrive’s program is designed with the first step of facilitating listening opportunities to hear directly from parents and caregivers in their unique contexts: noting faith formation themes, identifying areas of needed support, and learning from existing practices that have proven effective.

“We want to prioritize listening well to parents and caregivers by ensuring they have the opportunity to be heard from the very start. We are confident that they know best how to support their children’s faith formation within their family contexts.  Their voices are integral in shaping the design of impactful resources,” says Chris Schoon, co-director of Thrive.

Building from the foundation provided by parents and caregivers, the initiative will then pursue these objectives:

  • Gather, support, and train congregational leaders for their calling to equip parents and caregivers for faith formative practices in home-based contexts.
  • Develop resources that assist congregational leaders with encouraging and supporting parents and caregivers in home-based faith formation with their children.
  • Prepare congregations for intergenerational mentoring as a key strategy of supporting the faith formation of children, youth, and emerging adults.

A key priority within these objectives is to contextualize resources to better reflect the multiple cultural and linguistic communities within the CRC.

“We have had frequent requests from several communities in the CRC to develop resources in a variety of languages,” Lesli van Milligen, Thrive co-director, shares. “We want to develop resources that reflect the felt needs of diverse families and that support the congregation-based ministry leaders with regard to faith formation with children, and not simply default to those designed for the majority English-speaking communities.”

“Ultimately, our desire is to create highly accessible, low-cost resources that local children’s ministry leaders can utilize and/or recommend to parents and caregivers in their faith formation efforts with their children.”