Announcing innovative new ministry research grants

Fuller Youth Institute Image Fuller Youth Institute | Jan 5, 2016

Our team at the Fuller Youth Institute is always dreaming about new research that can be translated into timely and important resources for leaders, young people, and families. Today, we're particularly excited to make this formal public announcement about our next wave of research and resources.

Fuller Youth Institute Receives $810,000 in Grants for Innovative Ministry Research

The Fuller Youth Institute and Fuller Theological Seminary are excited to announce the launch of a new wave of research designed to strengthen churches’ ministry to teenagers and young adults. Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation, and the Sacred Harvest Foundation have awarded grants in support of projects totaling $810,000.

This research builds on the Fuller Youth Institute’s three-year “Churches Engaging Young People Project,” which studied best practices of churches nationwide excelling in ministry with young people ages 15 to 29. More than 250 churches participated in the study, including surveys and interviews with 474 young people and 799 adults. The new additional funding will continue the study of a diverse group of outstanding churches and aid the development of a vast toolkit of contextually sensitive ministry resources that will be released publicly beginning in fall 2016.

In addition, Fuller’s new Youth Ministry Innovations project aims to leverage the relationships, research, and resources from the Churches Engaging Young People Project in order to blaze new paths in youth ministry. Its goal is to truly experiment in order to reframe common ministry approaches and reimagine the spiritual practices that have animated the church throughout history.

Serving as director and principal investigator of both projects is Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (see and assistant professor in Youth and Family Ministry at Fuller. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch,” Dr. Powell’s decade of leadership at FYI has produced a host of books and research-based training, most notably around the best-selling Sticky Faith line of resources (see

“While past research and ministry efforts have helped young people journey toward adulthood, there is widespread agreement that new, more mature, and more systemic strategies are needed to help them navigate an increasingly challenging world,” Powell said. “These projects are poised to help guide today’s young people by weaving together two of our highest values and missional priorities - innovation and collaboration.”

Youth Ministry Innovations will be executed through four phases of research conducted during a three-year period. Phase One aims to understand and empathize with young people’s deepest questions of identity, belonging, and purpose. Phase Two will gather creative church leaders to ideate and test new ministry forms that will help teenagers and emerging adults experience God’s grace, love, and mission. Phase Three will refine the ministry forms deemed most effective, which will be shared in Phase Four through collaboratively developed and contextually sensitive resources.

The new grants were announced publicly at Fuller’s recent Engaging Young People Summit, which gathered key national leaders from 15 denominations as well as scholars and heads of church training organizations to focus on the challenges and opportunities of ministry to young people. The denominations in attendance represented over 63 percent of the adult Christian population in the United States.

“There's no way to describe the importance of the Fuller Youth Institute’s future research and how it will impact young people for years to come,” said Tyler Reagin, director of Catalyst, which trains more than 30,000 Christian leaders each year. “I'm honored to collaborate with Kara, the FYI team, and an incredible network of influencers who are actually DOING something to change the game for churches nationwide."

The initial findings of this research have already greatly challenged and served the church, according to Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park University. “I look forward to ongoing efforts by FYI that will continue to provide important roadmaps and guidelines for churches seeking guidance in these important areas,” Rah added.

The Fuller Youth Institute and Fuller Theological Seminary are thrilled to utilize these grants to build on their proven research ability, and use that research to form global leaders for kingdom vocations who are faithful, courageous, innovative, collaborative, and fruitful.


Fuller Theological Seminary is one of the world’s most influential evangelical institutions and the largest multidenominational seminary. We offer 18 graduate degree programs—with Spanish, Korean, and online options—through our Schools of Theology, Psychology, and Intercultural Studies as well as 20 centers, institutes, and initiatives. Approximately 4,000 students from 90 countries and 110 denominations enroll annually, and our 41,000 alumni have been called to serve as ministers, counselors, teachers, artists, nonprofit leaders, businesspersons, and in a multitude of other vocations around the world.


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J. K. Lilly Sr. and sons J. K. Jr. and Eli—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education, and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

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Fuller Youth Institute

The Fuller Youth Institute equips diverse leaders and parents so faithful young people can change our world. We turn academic research into practical resources to help make the church the best place for young people to grow. We believe in young people, and we believe in the church.

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