Articles on Research

  • 1. “Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother”: Giving Care and Grieving for Dying Parents in Fragmented Families

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 09 Jul 2014
    Amy Ziettlaw, Elizabeth Marquardt and Naomi Cahn have been investigating how young and middle aged adults who grew up in an era of rising divorce rates and unwed childbearing are experiencing the aging and dying of their parents and parent figures. How, they ask, might the church lead these folks in grappling with end of life issues in this environment where the landscape of the family has changed so dramatically.
  • 2. The Most Admired Man in America: Billy Graham

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 09 Jul 2014
    Billy Graham. What were the messages, methods and legacy of this man who spoke to an estimated 2.2 billion people during his ministry? These were the topics of a conference sponsored by the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. In this article, the reflections of historians at that conference on the man, the ministry and the “world” of Billy Graham are considered.
  • 3. Countering Commodification: A Review of Recent Research and Writings On Youth, Young Adults and Religion

    by: Anabel C. ProffittDate Published: 29 Jan 2014
    In her survey of recent research on youth and youth ministry, Profitt notes that many of the works arising from this study "name rampant consumerism and the attendant commodification of everything and everyone as an insidious problem in American Christianity.” Consequently, they “point to the need for congregations to reassess both the way they understand and how they present their faith, not only to young people, but to all people, since all, young and old, are subject to the market forces that are encroaching on every aspect of human life.”
  • 4. A Festival of Young Preachers

    by: Louis B. WeeksDate Published: 10 May 2013
    The Festival of Young Preachers is an annual gathering of more than one hundred-twenty young men and women, with major support from the Lilly Endowment and increasing support from numbers of churches, colleges, seminaries, and other Christian organizations. There young Christians who sense the call to preach, many of whom are already in pastoral ministry and others of whom are studying for the vocation, have the opportunity to exercise their calls in a hospitable environment.
  • 5. Emerging Scholarship on Youth and Religion: Resources for a New Generation of Youth Ministry

    by: Joyce Ann MercerDate Published: 15 Mar 2013
    In the mid-twentieth century as the idea solidified of adolescence as a separate life stage with its own unique characteristics and needs, scholars and church leaders began to utilize studies from psychology, sociology, or education to better understand and work with youth. This emerging body of research makes theology, spirituality and faith formation central to such inquiries about youth. Joyce Ann Mercer considers this material particularly where it has significant implications for the practice of youth ministry. This is the third of four articles on research on Youth and Religion funded by the Religion division of the Lilly Endowment.
  • 6. YOUNG, EMERGING, LOST OR ARRESTED?: A Review of Recent Research on Young Adults and Religion

    by: David F. WhiteDate Published: 15 Mar 2013
    David White surveys a set of recent studies that examine how religion factors into the lives of young Americans age 18 to 23, a group that has come to be known as “emerging adults.” This research provides insight into why one in three “emerging adults” are not affiliated with any religious community. This article is the second of four articles that will appear on this website concerning a research initiative on Youth and Religion that the Religion division of the Lilly Endowment has funded.
  • 7. Revitalizing Ministry with Youth and Young Adults

    by: Religion Division, Lilly EndowmentDate Published: 11 Nov 2012
    During the last fifteen years, the Lilly Endowment has awarded a series of strategic grants to help pastors and church leaders assess, re-imagine and enhance their ministries for young people. This article provides a broad overview of the findings from these projects that address new discoveries about the religious lives of young people and suggested approaches to ministry with youth and emerging adults. In addition, it offers an extensive bibliography of works on youth and religion broadly and youth ministry in particular.
  • 8. "Communities of Practice:" The Association of Theological Schools' Leadership Education Programs for Senior Administrators in Seminaries

    by: Louis B. WeeksDate Published: 22 Jan 2012
    The Association of Theological Schools, with funding support from the Lilly Endowment, has provided over the last 30 years a program of leadership development for senior administrators in theological education. With specific offerings to address the unique challenges faced by either presidents, deans, chief financial officers, student personnel administrators, women in leadership or racial/ethnic faculty and administrators, the ATS model seeks to nurture “communities of practice” in which members of a group work together, teaching one another and sharing skills and knowledge of mutual benefit, usually with someone to mentor or coach them at least initially. Over time these communities of practice have successfully introduced a host of new leaders in theological education to the distinctive challenges, responsibilities and environment that comes with the position that they have assumed.
  • 9. What Makes A Vibrant Congregation? A Seminary Rediscovers Congregational Life

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 21 Nov 2011
    The Vibrant Congregations Project at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, aims to study thriving congregations in order to help striving congregations. In the process, the seminary will partner with congregations to re-form its curriculum so that its students provide leadership that fosters vibrancy in congregations.
  • 10. The Poor Parson: Seminary Student Indebtedness and What Can Be Done About It

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 03 Sep 2011
    Seminary student debt has soared while the ability of first call pastors to pay back their loans given their typical starting salary has declined. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has begun a study that seeks to analyze what factors contribute to this problem and how the church might address it.
  • 11. Sustaining Pastoral Excellence: Supporting Ministry Over the Long Haul

    by: Trudy BushDate Published: 03 Sep 2011
    The Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative seeks to support already excellent ministry by providing the necessary support to ensure that excellence is maintained and even enhanced. Learn how 63 quite diverse forms of not-for-profit organizations including national judicatories, church-related colleges and universities, retreat centers, pastoral counseling centers and ethnic ministry centers have supported peer learning groups of ministers under the assumption that ministers are best able to figure out for themselves how they can grow and be renewed in their vocations.

    Trudy Bush, an editor-at-large for The Christian Century magazine, lives in Gambier, Ohio.


    by: Tracy SchierDate Published: 08 May 2011
    Two powerhouse programs, funded consistently and generously for many years by Lilly Endowment, have focused on improving diversity in the theological academy by supporting emerging scholars and educators from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. These programs, the Fund for Theological Education and the Hispanic Theological Initiative, illustrate the decisiveness of some church leaders to acknowledge past inequities and address the demographic changes of the past fifty years.
  • 13. In Pursuit of Excellence: Sustaining Roman Catholic Pastoral Leadership

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 17 Apr 2011
    One of the greatest changes for American Catholics in the last fifty years has been in the area of leadership. A church once dominated by a hierarchy staffed by priests assisted by nuns has become a church with more democratic, parish-based programs and initiatives increasingly lead by laypeople. So where the Lilly Endowment launched its program, "Sustaining Pastoral Excellence," its application to the Roman Catholic Church involved not only the question of the nature of excellence but the question of leadership itself. This essay describes three Roman Catholic projects with strikingly similar conclusions relevant to both American Catholics and Protestants.
  • 14. In Pursuit of Excellence: Nurturing Protestant Pastoral Leadership

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 21 Feb 2011
    Lilly Endowment has been at the forefront of addressing excellence in pastoral ministry in a multi-faceted set of programs that span more than a decade. The fundamental assumption behind the Lilly programs is that there is a basic and symbiotic relationship between congregations and their leaders: vital congregations need and produce vital leaders; vital leaders inspire and nurture vital congregations. This article deals with only a sample of these grants focused on nurturing excellence in the Protestant ministry. Four sets of grants to the Christian Reformed Church, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church are considered in detail. Each in their own way has developed programs to call forth the next generation of pastors and upbuild those pastors who serve currently through the development of a culture or an “ecology” in these communions that creates and sustains excellence in ministry. An article on the same effort to nurture ministry in the Roman Catholic community will follow in subsequent months.
  • 15. Enhancing All The Religion News That's Fit To Print

    by: John M. MulderDate Published: 08 Dec 2010
    Chronicling the efforts of a Lilly Endowment Religion Division initiative called "The Public Understanding of Religion," John Mulder notes how "church journalism" became "religion journalism" during the twentieth century and the challenge this has represented for religion journalists. This initiative has sought "to engage the powers of mass media and major cultural institutions to increase the general (and church) public's knowledge about, understanding of, and appreciation for Christianity and other religions and the roles they play in our society and the personal lives of a great many Americans." This it has done through scholarships in religion to strengthen religion journalists' understanding of their "beat," through research on regional variations in American religion, and finally, through online resources like, the ARDA (the Association of Research Data Archives), Resources for American Christianity and the portal "Insights into Religion."
  • 16. The End(s) of Theological Education: Reframing the Mission of Theological Schools

    by: Michael JinkinsDate Published: 10 Mar 2010
    Michael Jinkins describes how theological education has been engaged in a self-critical conversation about its proper ends and appropriate means since at least the middle of the last century. The “new shift in the fundamental orientation of theological education” has been towards “a process of formation and education oriented toward the practicing of the Christian life, ecclesially and communally.” Put another way, the ends of theological education are “to cultivate among persons certain habits, virtues, attitudes and perspectives as much as they provide persons with particular knowledge and skill sets.” So the question now for theological education becomes: “What happens to theological education if one believes that the ultimate telos of church, of the ministry of faith communities and of theological education is the living of a particular kind of life in response to the gift and call of God?”
  • 17. A Plentiful Harvest: The Fruits of Lilly-Sponsored Programs on Vocation

    by: David CunninghamDate Published: 01 Aug 2009
    David Cunningham of Hope College observes here that “over the past ten years, the very word vocation has been excavated from its location among the ruins of medieval- and Reformation-era theological concepts and has been granted new meaning and new life. Increasingly, it marks the various ways that church-related colleges and institutions are talking with their students about the future directions of their lives and talking with their faculty, administrators, and trustees about how such conversations might best be conducted. No longer relegated to a narrow range of religious occupations, the word vocation is now frequently used to describe the entire orientation of a person’s life, in ways that are truly holistic and deeply attentive to the entire spectrum of the human psyche. In this essay, Cunningham describes the literature that has spawned new perspectives on vocation and the role that the Lilly-funded Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation initiative has played in supporting this reflection.
  • 18. The Stories of Our Lives: The Theological Exploration of Vocation in Colleges and Universities

    by: Susan VanZantenDate Published: 09 Nov 2008
    Susan VanZanten discusses how the telling of personal stories about one’s life has been a key element of the powerful impact that the Program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV) has had on students and faculty. The PTEV has sought to help students examine the relationship between faith and work, encourage talented students to explore a call to Christian ministry, and prepare faculty and staff to assist students in thinking about vocation, work, and ministry in new ways.
  • 19. Transforming Practices: Emerging Literature on Children, Youth and Christian Formation

    by: Karen Marie YustDate Published: 27 Sep 2008
    Karen Marie Yust reviews the books and edited volumes of twenty-four scholars or scholarly collaborations, highlighting shared themes and commitments in the major literature on children, youth and Christian formation that has emerged since 2000.
  • 20. Family Perspectives

    by: J. Bradley WiggerDate Published: 14 Jun 2008
    For the past two decades, the Lilly Endowment has supported several projects among religious institutions designed to empower and serve families. This work has helped to shape discussions, policy-making, scholarship, ministries, and practices on national and local levels alike. Brad Wigger surveys several of these efforts, exploring along the way, how attention to families can affect visions of ministry, communities, and the larger society.
  • 21. Leaders’ Perspectives on Youth and Youth Ministry: Insights and Discoveries

    by: Ann E. Streaty WimberlyDate Published: 14 May 2008
    Anne Wimberly shares her own and other knowledgeable church and academic leaders' insights and discoveries in their quest to shape ministries that foster Christian formation and a future of hope for youth.

    Anne Wimberly is Professor of Christian Education and Church music at Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center

  • 22. American Denominational Studies: A Critical Assessment

    by: James W. LewisDate Published: 15 Nov 2004
    In sketching a broad overview of the extensive literature funded by the Lilly Endowment on mainstream Protestantism, Jim Lewis situates it in its time and context, highlights some of its major enduring insights/findings as well as issues and questions yet to be addressed, and reflects on its usefulness, especially for religious leaders and scholars.

    James W. Lewis is the Executive Director of the Louisville Institute.

  • 23. Reflections on Mainline Church Leadership

    by: Richard L. HammDate Published: 09 Sep 2004
    Reflecting on the literature concerning American mainline denominations and his personal experience as a prominent leader in one of those communions, Richard Hamm challenges those who have answered the call to leadership in such churches with thoughtful suggestions for their personal growth, for sustaining a discerning perspective and for offering a visionary ministry that at once helps their communions to clarify their mission even as they learn from historically marginalized communities of faith.

    Richard L. Hamm is the former General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.

  • 24. The Aims & Purposes of Literature: Notes from the Field

    by: Jack FitzmierDate Published: 12 Apr 2004
    After mapping in broad strokes the major contributions of studies on the "aims and purposes of theological education," Jack Fitzmier spirals down from those utopian proposals for re-visioning theological education to a bird's eye view of the "actual doing of theological education" today. In this investigation at the ground level, he focuses on four areas of concern about contemporary theological students -- the problem of academic preparation; work, family and localism; spirituality and critical Christian theological thinking; and the triumph of functionalism.

    Jack Fitzmier is Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Dean at the Claremont School of Theology.

  • 25. Theological Education via Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

    by: William J. Carl IIIDate Published: 12 Apr 2004
    In the books and articles on the aims and purposes of theological education, William Carl finds administrators, professors, trustees, pastors and educational specialists all feeling their way toward some elusive but edifying truth about what Ed Farley calls Theologia while at the same time bumping around in the dim light in search of better ways to train pastors and educators for ministry in the twenty-first century church. In his essay, he invites you to do some “pedagogical spelunking” as you explore together where theological education is heading these days, and what some of the best minds think about it.

    William Carl is President of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

  • 26. Re-examination and Renaissance: Lilly-sponsored Studies at the Turn of the Century

    by: Paul J. DovreDate Published: 20 Nov 2003
    Paul J. Dovre explores key markers or characteristics of 20th century religious higher education, the challenge of contemporary academic heterodoxy as well as strategies for claiming and sustaining vibrant church-related colleges before setting out what he considers will be indicators of future promise in such institutions in the early 21st century.

    Paul Dovre is the past president of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

  • 27. New Tasks for the New Congregation: Reflections on Congregational Studies

    by: Jeff WoodsDate Published: 11 Jul 2003
    Jeff Woods discusses changes in congregations’ cultural environment before considering the new tasks that today’s congregations must address, factors that influence the capacity of congregations to embrace emerging trends in the church and the society, as well as the different role that congregational leaders must play if their congregations are to adapt to their altered situation. In the process, Woods also suggests future areas where research would be helpful to congregations’ understanding of their circumstances and prospects.

    Jeff Woods is Associate General Secretary for Regional Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA.

  • 28. What Must a Pastor Know?: Reflections on Congregational Studies

    by: Arthur Paul BoersDate Published: 31 Jan 2003
    Arthur Boers surveys key insights that have emerged from a rapidly expanding literature on the nature and patterns of congregational life in the United States. Then he asks what have the social sciences that have been so heavily employed in congregational studies got to do with the theology that is supposed to be informing congregational life and practice.

    Arthur Paul Boers is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Coordinator of the Spiritual Formation Program at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

  • 29. The Impact of the Lilly-funded Research on Catholic Campuses

    by: Alice GallinDate Published: 10 Mar 2002
    Alice Gallin provides an overview of literature that examines what it means to be a Catholic college or university in today’s multi-cultured world as well as outlines recent efforts to foster a Catholic identity in these institutions of higher education.

    Alice Gallin is an Ursuline sister who served for twelve years as the Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

  • 30. Why Theology?: A Catholic Reflection on Twenty Years of Literature on Theological Education

    by: William CahoyDate Published: 07 Jan 2002
    William Cahoy provides a succinct overview of the literature generated by Lilly-sponsored conversations about the nature of theological education. Then recognizing that the majority of this dialogue has assumed a Protestant setting, Cahoy asks what Catholics can learn from this reflection, and in turn, from the Catholic experience teach their Protestant colleagues about this unique form of education/formation.

    William Cahoy is the Dean of the Saint John's School of Theology.

  • 31. Prophetic Ministry: The Black Church & Theological Education

    by: William P. DeVeauxDate Published: 03 Sep 2001
    Bishop William P. DeVeaux insists that the task of theological education is to prepare Christian ministers who will be prophetic in thought, word and action. But before seminaries can accomplish this task for African Americans, considerable misinformation about the black religious experience and its participants must be corrected, and theological faculties must more skillfully assist their students in translating theology into the concrete practice of ministry. Bishop DeVeaux concludes by offering several strategies to improve theological education's ability to meet the needs of the Black Church.

    Bishop DeVeaux has served as the bishop of the 18th district of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

  • 32. Christian Practices and Congregational Education in Faith

    by: Craig DykstraDate Published: 07 May 2001
    Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra consider how worshiping congregations can provide a fertile, communal context for the inculcation and nourishment of Christian practices. These practices constitute together a way of life informed by and in turn revealing a deep knowledge of God.

    Dorothy Bass is the Director of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People of Faith, and Craig Dykstra is Vice President for Religion at the Lilly Endowment.

  • 33. Theological Education: Confessional and Public

    by: Charles M. WoodDate Published: 07 Mar 2001
    Charles M. Wood has been a participant in ongoing conversations about theological education in a project developed by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. In his essay, he draws on these discussions, first, to consider what the aim, movement and structure of theological education should be and, second, to propose how theological education can and should be both confessional and public.

    Charles M. Wood is Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine at the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University.

  • 34. A Pastor's Perspective on the Financing of American Religion

    by: Richard R. CrockerDate Published: 09 Jan 2001
    Richard R. Crocker pinpoints key lessons that religious leaders can learn from the literature on the financing of American religion. Among these are the character of the so-called financial “crisis,” the impact of denominational cultures on giving, practices that make a difference, questions of pastoral competence and training in financial matters especially in a new “culture of philanthropy” as well as what pastors might do about the situation.

    Richard R. Crocker, Ph.D., is pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey.

  • 35. Revitalizing Religion in the Academy

    by: John SchmalzbauerDate Published: 02 Jan 2001
    This report provides an evaluation of the research and conversations on religion and higher education that the Lilly Endowment has sponsored. Chief among the report's findings is the emergence of a movement to revitalize religion in higher education that gathered momentum in the 1990s.
  • 36. Thinking Theologically About Wealth, Including Money

    by: Carol JohnstonDate Published: 12 Oct 2000
    Carol Johnston notes in this essay that " 'money' and wealth are notoriously difficult topics for most North American Christians to think about theologically." For this reason, she seeks answers to several critical questions on the topic. What is "wealth"? What does wealth have to do with that which Jesus called an "abundant life"? What do we need for an abundant life, and what does that have to do with money?

    Carol Johnston is Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Director of the Faith, Wealth and Community Leadership Project. For further information on Dr. Johnston's work on this topic, go to and click on "Johnston" under the faculty listing.

  • 37. Financing American Religion

    by: Mark ChavesDate Published: 10 Jun 2000
    Mark Chaves surveys findings from recent studies on church finances. His essay includes a discussion of individual giving patterns, the factors that influence such giving, where congregations spend their funds, differences among denominations in member contributions and sources of income as well as possible directions for future research. This essay appeared in a monograph with the same title edited by Mark Chaves and Sharon L. Miller.

    Mark Chaves is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona.