Virginia Theological Seminary awarded $1.25 million grant to help parents teach their children the faith


Virginia Theological Seminary’s (VTS) Faith-filled Families (FfF) initiative is launching a project to empower parents to teach their children about faith after receiving a $1.25 million grant.

FfF, which operates out of Lifelong Learning at VTS, was awarded a $1 million grant in October 2022 from Lilly Endowment Inc., through its Christian Parenting and Caregiving initiative. More recently, FfF received an additional $250,000 from the same organization to enhance and expand its work.

The money will fund a five-year action-research project focused on equipping preschools and congregations to support parents in the religious formation of their children. FfF will provide research-based resources and best practices to help parents share their faith and values with their children, while also nurturing their own faith.

Donna Sweeting, Director of FfF, said: “Parents and guardians are the primary architects of their children’s spiritual foundation, shaping not just their beliefs but the very essence of their souls. Faith-filled Families is designed to meet parents where they are, honor their strengths, hear their existential longing, and provide them with resources to aid them on their parenting journey. With an increased capacity to inspire, educate and guide, thanks to the additional grant funding, our program is poised to reach new heights of influence in fostering faith, values, and a profound spiritual connection within families.”

The initiative will work with 15 preschool-congregation sites of different denominations, all within a 100-mile radius of VTS. Parents will be given physical, digital, and practice resources, designed by the FfF team, professionals in the field and seminarians enrolled in VTS’ children’s spirituality classes. They will also have access to educational opportunities, and support groups to provide an environment in which they can share their experiences, seek guidance, and offer mutual support in their Christian parenting journey.

Throughout the project, non-invasive methods will be used to identify the specific needs, challenges and preferences of parents and early childhood care providers to ensure resources and support are tailored to meet these needs. The impact of the initiative on parents’ spiritual growth, as well as their children’s faith development, will also be tracked to understand Christian parenting more fully. The project’s findings will be published to encourage other sites to strengthen the ecology of children’s spiritual formation between parents, congregations and schools.

FfF is focusing on preschools housed in congregations to leverage the support of the broader church community, and to maintain sustained engagement with parents over an extended period, as they navigate different stages of their child’s growth and development. FfF believes the development of faith-forming ecosystems that are specific to the cultural environment of the stakeholders will lead to transformative ministries in the home, community of faith, and the community at large.