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Princeton Seminary receives $1.25 million for young adult ministry ‘Collaboratory’

Princeton Theological Seminary

Princeton Theological Seminary has received a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund The Ministry Collaboratory @ Princeton (the Collaboratory), which will disseminate and build upon findings from Princeton Seminary’s recently completed young adult innovation initiative, The Zoe Project. The Collaboratory will also work with various partners to develop practical resources from this data, to help congregations collaborate with young adults to lead change in their communities.

Princeton Seminary is one of 12 organizations receiving grants through the second phase of Lilly Endowment’s Young Adult Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to deepen the religious lives of young adults (ages 23 to 29) and to engage them more fully in the life of Christian congregations. Lilly Endowment supported creation of The Zoe Project with a grant made to the seminary in 2016 through the Young Adult Initiative’s first phase.

“Collaboration is a key theme in the Collaboratory — between young adults and congregations, between congregations and each other, and between congregations and communities,” says Kenda Creasy Dean, Princeton Seminary’s Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture and faculty liaison to the Institute for Youth Ministry. This approach is based upon key findings from The Zoe Project, which the Collaboratory will highlight. “Instead of just being ‘targets’ of ministry, young adults are eager to initiate and be drivers of new ministries — especially when their churches move beyond the four walls into the broader community. When young adults and congregations collaborate around Spirit-led change in their communities, both grow in faith.” Dean is The Ministry Collaboratory’s faculty senior strategist and was director of The Zoe Project from 2017-2021.

The Collaboratory will make findings from The Zoe Project more accessible through two courses of action. The grant team will work with 90 congregations across 30 communities to test various strategies created during The Zoe Project to broaden their applicability, and encourage young adults and congregations to collaborate on ministry with their communities. “Some of our data suggests that innovative congregations are more likely to work with young adults — and vice versa — because they see young adults as creative initiators of ministry, not objects of it,” says Abigail Rusert, director of program design and the Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton Seminary. The Institute for Youth Ministry will manage the ongoing work of the Collaboratory.

The Collaboratory will also create a suite of learning tools to help congregations innovate, and to support the changemaking young adults are already doing in their communities. The toolkits will be shared with judicatories and participating congregations to broaden the reach of the learning tools.

The project will continue through December 2026.

About Princeton Theological Seminary 
Princeton Theological Seminary, founded in 1812, is the first seminary established by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Its mission is to educate leaders for the church of Jesus Christ worldwide. Its students and more than 11,000 graduates from all 50 states and many nations around the world serve Christ in churches, schools and universities, healthcare institutions, nonprofit agencies, initiatives for social justice, mission agencies, and the emerging ministries of the church in the 21st century. 

About Lilly Endowment Inc. 
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and 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 supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The primary aim of its grantmaking in religion, which is national in scope, focuses on strengthening the leadership and vitality of Christian congregations in the United States. The Endowment also seeks to foster public understanding about religion and lift up in fair, accurate, and balanced ways the contributions that people of all faiths and religious communities make to our greater civic well-being. 


Nicole Pride
Princeton Theological Seminary
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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