Fuller Youth Institute receives $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Project seeks to develop new approaches to congregational ministry with teenagers

Our team at the Fuller Youth Institute strives to produce thoughtful and well-informed answers to your toughest questions about ministry and parenting. Today, we're excited to make this formal public announcement about our newest research and resources.

The Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) at Fuller Theological Seminary was recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The goal of the Living a Better Story (or LABS) project is to discover and develop new congregational ministry approaches which effectively guide today’s diverse teenagers to Christ-centered narratives that satisfy their longings for identity, belonging, and purpose.

As an increasing number of young people in the US drift from faith, they also drift from the church. Churches missing young people end up missing the vitality, creativity, insight, and passion young people provide. Integrating FYI’s existing work from best-selling books and research projects like Sticky Faith and Growing Young, this new three-year project aims to conduct an extensive exploration of existing innovative approaches to ministry with teenagers whose origin stories and current impact could be sources of inspiration, and even offer templates, for diverse churches nationwide.

“We are deeply encouraged by Lilly Endowment Inc.’s support of the Fuller Youth Institute’s work,” said Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary. “The LABS project recognizes that too many churches’ existing ministries with young people are falling short and new church-wide approaches are needed. This new research can help close the gap between many young people’s current narratives and more fulfilling and authentic Christ-centered ones. The congregations and researchers who participate in this project will inspire the wider Church to be thoughtful and innovative as it strives to revitalize its ministries and offerings.”

Over the course of the three-year LABS project, FYI intends to

  • Leverage its extensive networks in order to unearth existing effective and interesting ministry approaches that have yet to be popularized;
  • Better understand diverse young people’s current narratives, as well as alternative Christ-centered narratives that fuel innovative ministry approaches;
  • Design and execute a 2-year cohort training process with 24-30 diverse congregations who will contextualize approaches that have been discovered and/or develop their own fresh approaches; and
  • Broadly share the insights gained with tens of thousands of multicultural church leaders with the aim of popularizing innovative approaches to ministry with teenagers.

FYI will translate these case studies and innovative findings into resources geared to equip leaders nationwide to nurture the religious lives of youth more effectively and integrate them more fully into the congregational mission and ministry.


Fuller Seminary, founded in 1947, provides graduate-level professional training at its main campus in Pasadena, Calif, and through online study programs. One of the largest multidenominational seminaries in the world, Fuller has more than 4,400 students from approximately 70 countries and more than 120 denominations. Fuller’s more than 40,000 alumni serve in every part of the world in pulpit ministry and church leadership, as leaders in mission organizations, as counselors, teachers, authors, and in a variety of marketplace ministries.


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 Inc.’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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