*Editorial Note: The article below was written by Jeff Brumley, a Senior News Writer for Baptist News Global. It was originally posted August 30th, 2023 at this link. We are grateful for Baptist News Global’s coverage of our recent Lilly Grant.
Missio Alliance and Northeastern Seminary get Lilly grant to empower Latino families
Missio Alliance and Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan University are launching a project to empower Latino families and churches in the transmission of the Christian faith to younger generations.
The Familias Unidas — or United Families — program will be funded with a $1.225 million grant from the Lilly Endowment as part of its Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative aimed at helping parents and churches disciple children and youth.
“Our goal is to focus specifically on how Latino families can do that,” said Lisa Rodriguez-Watson, National Director of Missio Alliance, a ministry of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
“The project is concerned with the spiritual formation that happens from one generation to the next. Our plan is to focus on first- and second-generation families because the religious and family values are still held very strongly at those levels. As you move from the second to the third generation, we often find less adherence to Christian and family values.”
To do that, Missio Alliance and Northeastern Seminary, the grant recipient, will develop specialized liturgies, training opportunities and other resources for participating congregations, faith leaders and families in Portland, Ore., Rochester, N.Y., and the Washington, D.C., area.
For its part of the project, Missio Alliance will utilize its experience bringing theological reflection and other spiritual practices into marginalized communities and will tap its connections with Latino congregations, authors and pastors to help design a contextualized catechesis, Rodriguez-Watson said.
“The challenge for these communities is that Christian missional resources typically are not from within our culture. It’s usually a white, male-dominated culture speaking to nonwhite, and sometimes not male-dominated, cultures,” she explained. Culturally informed material better communicates “why theology matters and how what we believe, and why we believe it, can be shared from one generation to the next.”
'Our goal is to focus specifically on how Latino families can disciple children and youth,' said Missio National Director @lrodwatson. 'The project is concerned with the spiritual formation from one generation to the next.' (1/2) Click To Tweet 'We plan to focus on 1st and 2nd generation families because religious and family values are still held very strongly. As you move from the 2nd to the 3rd generation, we find less adherence to Christian and family values.' (2/2) Click To Tweet
While organizers know Familias Unidas resources will be context-appropriate, the details have yet to be determined, she added. “We haven’t established ahead of time what we think people need. We are going to be holding listening sessions with participants. Part of our fundamental belief is that the community has the answers to its own issues, but you just have to elevate their strengths and empower them so they can be part of their own solution.”
Officials from Northeastern Seminary said their contribution to the program will include creation of a certificate program in children and youth spiritual formation for Familias Unidas participants. New faculty will be hired to help teach those courses.
“I am thrilled that Northeastern Seminary has the opportunity to partner with Missio Alliance on such an important project,” seminary Vice President Benjamin Espinoza said. “Spiritual formation has been a core value of the seminary since its inception 25 years ago, and we are excited to extend this commitment to the broader Latino community.”
Lilly announced in July the approval of 77 grants in its Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative “to provide resources for parents and other caregivers to help them share more effectively their Christian faith and values with their children.”
Grant recipients are taking numerous approaches to accomplishing that goal, a news release from the Lilly Endowment said. “Some organizations are producing resources to help parents and children engage in daily Christian practices in their homes through prayer, Scripture readings and storytelling. Many organizations are helping families develop faith-based rituals to help children grow spiritually by marking significant milestones in the lives of their children and at family celebrations. Other organizations are developing peer-coaching programs and offering training so that parents and caregivers can develop confidence in sharing faith.”
Christopher L. Coble, the endowment’s vice president for religion, said families and churches have been appealing for assistance in communicating their faith to emerging generations. “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. These thoughtful, creative and collaborative organizations embrace the important role families have in shaping the religious development of children and are launching programs to assist parents and caregivers with this task.”
'Our fundamental belief is that a community has the answers to its own issues. We have to elevate their strengths and empower them so they can be part of their own solution' said Missio Alliance National Director @lrodwatson. Click To Tweet