Hampton University Receives $1 Million Thriving Congregations Grant for New Church Leadership Program

Hampton University Receives $1 Million Thriving Congregations Grant for New Church Leadership Program


Hampton University has received a grant of $1 million from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish The D’ART Collective: Extending Christian Discipleship through the Arts and Technology. The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to strengthen Christian congregations so they can help people deepen their relationships with God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

“Hampton University is grateful to the Lilly Endowment for its continued support of Dr. Debra L. Haggins and the University’s deep long-term investment in the lives of clergy leaders and the congregations to which they are called to serve,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President. “We believe this initiative will deepen our 107-year commitment and investment in the lives of clergy and congregations through our national initiative, the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference-Choir Directors’ and Organists’ Guild Workshop.”

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. The grants will support organizations as they work directly with congregations and help them gain clarity about their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities in which they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

The emphasis of The D’ART Collective is education and training. The holistic health and well-being of pastors, churches, and congregations create strong communities of practice and offer multiple opportunities for spiritual formation, growth, and discipleship. This model of congregational learning and leading will facilitate deep connections with denominational, community, and corporate partners.

Reverend Debra L. Haggins, Ph.D., Hampton University Chaplain and Executive Director for the HU Ministers’ Conference and Choir Directors and Organists’ Guild, wrote and prepared the proposal. Two years ago, Dr. Haggins established the Pastoral Renewal Initiative for Ministerial Excellence (PRIME) Program through the gracious funding of The Lilly Endowment. “There is a plethora of research which recognizes that technology has rewired our brains and changed the way we live, work, worship, and practice our faith,” said Dr. Haggins. “The D’ART Collective seeks to harness the power of technology and the appeal of the arts to draw youth, the religiously unaffiliated, and those who have become apathetic and unconnected to the Christian faith. We are extremely pleased to be one of the organizations selected by The Endowment to carry out this great work of the church and the academy.”

The overarching purpose of the D’ART Collective is to expand and enrich the work of the church, and offer training and development in the missional use of technology and the arts to attract and offer Christ to the growing number of religiously unaffiliated youth and adults. The goals of our proposed program become operational through a module-based delivery system of five organic pathways designed to study foundational yet major components of congregational life and activity.

Hampton University is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including Anabaptist, Baptist, Episcopal, evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Restoration, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, as well as congregations that describe themselves as nondenominational. Several organizations serve congregations in Black, Hispanic and Asian-American traditions.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing world, Christian congregations are grappling with how they can best carry forward their ministries,” said Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “These grants will help congregations assess their ministries and draw on practices in their theological traditions to address new challenges and better nurture the spiritual vitality of the people they serve.”  

Lilly Endowment launched the Thriving Congregations Initiative in 2019 as part of its commitment to support efforts that enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a 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 exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s grant making in religion is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen their pastoral and lay leadership.

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