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Whitworth University Receives Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant to Support Formed in Faith Initiative

July 13, 2023

Whitworth University is pleased to announce it has received a grant of $1,249,957 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Formed in Faith project. 

Operated by the Whitworth Office of Church Engagement, the program aims to draw parents and churches together to investigate parenting as a site of intentional discipleship. This formation of parents and caregivers is intended to equip them to practice vibrant faith alongside their young children (0-5 years) to intentionally disciple them as Christians.

Over the next five years, the project team will gather children’s ministry leaders, parents and children from around the Spokane region to engage in intentional gatherings meant to experiment with new models of developmentally appropriate learning and explore new ways of knowing and experiencing God alongside children. 

The program will recruit 6-10 churches to participate in a cohort engaged in deep, intentional work with families in their congregations. It will also create a local children’s ministry network, which will gather children’s ministers monthly for shared learning, fellowship and experimentation. Churches and children’s ministry leaders will benefit from the expertise of Whitworth faculty consultants throughout the program.

“So often we see children as in a ‘temporary’ stage until they become adults. This extends to how we see, honor and treat them when it comes to faith formation,” project director Lauren Hunter says. “But I’m captivated by what could happen if we changed our paradigm. This project excites me because we believe attending to our young children as co-image bearers of God will change not only children but lead to the transformation of the entire church as we experience God in new ways together. I love that the OCE is concentrating our efforts locally, and we are praying to catch a vision for what God is doing in Spokane through and with our children!”

The project also aims to be attentive to the growing population of Slavic families in Spokane. The church cohort will recruit English- and Slavic-speaking churches for participation, and the OCE is seeking a Slavic ministry leader to join the project’s leadership team. 

Whitworth University is one of 77 organizations that are receiving grants through this competitive round of the Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. 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.  

“This initiative not only distinctly aligns with the ongoing work of the OCE, but also has the potential to deepen it,” says Mindy Smith, OCE director. “The OCE aims to ‘equip disciples with the good news of Jesus Christ,’ and to begin exploring the call of parenting as discipleship with the church and caregivers is a compelling new venture for our team.”

If you are a parent or caregiver and would like to learn more about resources to help you in your journey of passing faith on to your children click here. If you are a church interested in the Formed in Faith Project, click here

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.

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university has an enrollment of about 2,500 students and offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Lauren Hunter, project director and associate director of church engagement, Office of Church Engagement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4437 or

Alexis Perry, assistant director of communications, Office of Church Engagement, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4439 or

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or