Columbia seminary receives $1.24 million Lilly grant

Nurturing children’s worship experience will be the goal
Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur

Columbia Theological Seminary has received a $1.24 million Lilly Endowment grant to help launch an initiative preparing students and congregations to build on the children’s worship experience and grow in their faith.

The program, called the “Wonder of Worship,” is funded through Lilly’s Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative and is focused on developing a child’s relationship with God.

A recent study by the Barna Group, in partnership with Awana, found that children’s ministry is one that is often overlooked in churches.

Yet, it can provide one of the best avenues to develop and understanding of the importance of faith and congregational worship in a young person’s life that can continue into adulthood.

“This grant will provide Columbia Seminary with another opportunity to creatively serve the church, its leadership, and its families,” the Rev. Victor Aloyo Jr., president of the Decatur seminary, said in a statement. “This resource will provide platforms to explore innovative tools for worship leaders to experiment with new methods and ideas for children’s sake, both now and in their future.”

The goal is to help faith leaders make the church experience more inclusive and engaging for children. Columbia is one of 26 organizations taking part in the Lilly program.

Spaces for worship practice will be established on Columbia’s campus and also to hold regional gatherings twice a year for partner churches.

The “Wonder of Worship” initiative will be led by Kathy Dawson, the Benton Family Associate professor of Christian Education.

That same Barna report found that nearly two-thirds - 64 % - of children’s ministry leaders strongly agree that churches cannot grow without an effective children’s ministry. Some parents consider a vibrant children’s ministry and facilities for children as one of the key reasons to join a church.