Grant Aids Westmont Center to Establish Thriving Communities

By Scott Craig   |   November 12, 2020

Westmont College has received a grant of $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Westmont Center for Thriving Communities.

Lilly Endowment’s Thriving Congregations Initiative funds the program. This national initiative seeks to strengthen Christian congregations to help people deepen their faith in God, build strong relationships with each other and contribute to the flourishing of local communities and the world.

The Westmont Activities Council decked out Kerrwood Hall as part of an effort to keep students on campus for Halloween to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19

Lilly Endowment made nearly $93 million in grants through the initiative. This support allows organizations to work directly with congregations and help them clarify their values and missions, explore and understand better the communities they serve, and draw upon their theological traditions as they adapt ministries to meet changing needs.

The Westmont Center for Thriving Communities will gather local churches to explore how they can best serve the distinctive Central Coast region as individual congregations and as a network. Through plenary retreats, local church events, and individual consulting, the program offers congregations the diverse resources of Westmont College, drawing especially on the insights of three existing initiatives:

The Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which helps Westmont students and faculty understand and engage the Santa Barbara area;

The Westmont Initiative for Public Dialogue and Deliberation, which gathers people to discuss complex social problems and shared values that might drive solutions;

The Westmont Decision Lab, which uses formal economic theory to help churches and other organizations make crucial decisions.

“Demographic change, racial and socioeconomic dynamics, and shifting patterns of suburban development make the Central Coast a challenging and vital place to do ministry,” says Aaron Sizer, co-director of the program. “The pandemic has introduced new hurdles as well as fresh opportunities to rethink how we’re doing God’s work in the world.”

Campus Pastor Scott Lisea, who co-directs the program, says he looks forward to engaging local congregations in new conversations. “This is a fascinating time for churches and leaders as they work their communities,” he says. “A great deal of current research can help churches consider what real impact looks like. Westmont has scholars in theology, sociology, economics, history, art, and many other fields who can connect congregations to those discussions, helping them thrive as they serve where God has placed them.”

Westmont is one of 92 organizations taking part in the initiative, representing and serving churches in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions. 

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

 

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