Perkins School of Theology receives $1 million Lilly Grant to strengthen congregational youth ministries

Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University is the recent recipient of a large grant aimed at helping churches with budgetary needs to strengthen their youth ministries.

The five-year, $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will kickstart a new initiative called “Reboot: The Congregation as Youth Worker.” The initiative will select and provide resources to congregations within a 300-mile radius of Dallas that are without a full-time paid youth worker.

According to the press release, “The initial cohort of 18 congregations — the ‘Starter Cohort’ — will undergo a discovery process to determine the viability of ministries with youth in their communities and will be introduced to current innovation models for youth ministries. From this cohort, 12 congregations will be selected as the ‘Innovation Cohort’ to apply for resources provided by the grant to build and sustain an innovative model for congregational ministry with youth.”

For Arkansas United Methodist Churches, this 300-mile radius includes churches in both the Southwest and Northwest District of the Arkansas Conference.

Michelle Moore — Youth and Young Adult Coordinator for the Arkansas Conference and advisory board member for the Lilly grant — said the initiative’s concentration on churches without a paid, full-time youth minister is especially attractive for a majority of Arkansas Conference UMC churches.

“I know we have several churches who would benefit from this program directly or from the research and findings that will come from this program’s work. I am excited for the Arkansas Conference to be a partner in engaging youth, volunteers, congregations and pastors in this experience and helping develop strong, healthy and sustainable youth programs,” Moore said. “I look forward to being in partnership with Perkins School of Theology as this program emerges into the vital program I know it will become.”

Applications to enroll as one of the 18 Starter Cohort congregations will be accepted beginning May 8, 2019.

Rev. Bart Patton, Co-director of the grant along with Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison, said that youth ministry is currently at an important crossroads in its journey.

“We hope this new endeavor will provide new standards and rubrics to help congregations create, implement, sustain, and measure youth ministry,” Patton said.

Pope-Levison said the grant will allow churches that were previously unable to implement effective youth ministries the opportunity to do so.

“The financial and personnel resources that this grant makes possible will lead the way in rebooting youth ministry from the lone ranger approach of the paid youth worker to centering youth ministry as a congregational initiative and endeavor,” she said.

For more information about the initiative and how your church can apply to be in the Starter Cohort, contact Rev. Bart Patton at

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