Jan 03, 2024 Print This Article

Seminary receives ‘family discipleship’ grant from Lilly Endowment

New initiative to support Christian families in LCMS

Concordia Seminary campus

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL) has received a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to work in partnership with the Concordia Center for the Family (CCF) to establish the Family Discipleship Initiative (FDI).

The project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children.

The purpose of the Family Discipleship Initiative is to support Christian families in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as they pass on the biblical faith. The phrase “family discipleship” refers to Christ’s gifts creating faith in and through families with church support. The FDI includes educating and motivating present and future pastors, church workers and other church leaders with biblical theology, knowledge, competence and attitudes for family discipleship. The overarching goal is to encourage and equip parents in passing on faith in Jesus Christ to their children and future generations.

FDI has two major features. First, Seminary education will equip future pastoral and deaconess students and their families with family discipleship formation to benefit their own households and the congregations they will serve. Second, in cooperation with CCF, it will support families, congregations and districts of the LCMS to provide home-centered models and resources for raising children as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“I am grateful that Lilly Endowment is providing this generous grant to address the critical need to support homes and congregations in raising children in the Christian faith,” said Dr. W. Mart Thompson, associate professor of Practical Theology and FDI program director. “This grant makes possible a unique and impactful partnership with our friends at CCF, a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS specializing in home-centered discipleship. The Seminary will provide formation for pastors and deaconesses to equip congregations to support families for this work. CCF will supply hands-on resources and training to empower parents, church workers and congregations for family discipleship.”

“We at CCF share a common goal with CSL in desiring to impact the LCMS to see more and more children raised to be lifelong disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Todd Biermann, executive director of CCF. “Continuing the work begun by founder Dr. Ben Freudenburg, we are committed to listening and attending to the needs of families, congregations and districts to provide a trustworthy biblical framework for family discipleship. The important position of the home for handing down the faith is clearly demonstrated by research. But even more significantly, God’s Word teaches that the family is specially called to raise up succeeding generations in the Christian faith, as Martin Luther boldly taught. We, therefore, are profoundly grateful for Lilly Endowment’s vision and generosity in providing this grant and to Concordia Seminary for its leadership and partnership in supporting the biblical paradigm of family discipleship.”

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis is one of 125 organizations that have received grants through the Christian Parenting initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in Black church, Hispanic and Asian Christian traditions.

“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.”

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.  

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 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.

About Concordia Center for the Family

Concordia Center for the Family (CCF) is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the LCMS that is focused on inspiring and equipping Christian leaders to facilitate thriving home-centered family discipleship, enabling Christ’s gifts to create faith in and through families with church support. For over a decade, CCF has utilized a proven biblical framework to promote healthy Christian marriages and families that are engines of exponential growth for Christ’s global kingdom, now and for generations to come. To learn more, contact Executive Director Dr. Todd A. Biermann at tabiermann@gmail.com.

About Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit csl.edu.