Fresno Pacific University has received a grant of $990,280 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the New Skills for a New Era Initiative at the Center for Community Transformation (CCT).
The program will be rooted at the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, a graduate school of the university. It 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.
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.
New Skills for a New Era Initiative will build on and expands key aspects of CCT work in the Valley, focusing in particular on equipping Valley churches and organizations with cutting-edge economic and civic tool boxes to address the issues being faced by congregations and residents in their neighborhoods. These include searing unemployment, violence, isolation from the civic process, vulnerability to predatory lending, lack of access to leadership development, educational inequities, as well as others. The initiative places special emphasis on mobilizing and equipping urban and rural Spanish-speaking congregations, as well as diverse, English-speaking urban and rural congregations that are focusing on underserved neighborhoods, from Merced to Fresno to Tulare. The initiative will make scholarships available to these congregations for specialized classes and certifications in the areas of financial literacy, micro-enterprise, social enterprise, workforce readiness, educational partnerships, and leadership development for community transformation, as well as provide mentoring. These “new skill” toolboxes will help congregations thrive in a time when the Central Valley is under enormous pressures, made even worse by the pandemic, because they will be better able to address the felt needs of residents.
Randy White, D.Min., executive director of CCT, said, “This strategic grant will, through the influence of training and mentoring, catalyze a whole new level of relevance for Valley churches wanting to seek the peace and well-being of their cities, following Jeremiah 29:4-7. It equips churches to demonstrate practically that God cares about the whole person, the economic, physical and spiritual health of their families and neighborhoods.”
The design of the grant: New Skills for a New Era. The grant will will greatly expand the CCT’s offerings to assist Valley churches in acquiring the specific skill sets necessary for relevant and transformational impact in our communities moving ahead. The grant will fund:
- An expanded CCT Certificado program, including scholarships for serving Spanish speaking leaders as they seek to engage and serve their neighborhoods, some of them the poorest in the region
- An expanded CCT financial literacy facilitator training, including scholarships for congregations to help them minister to parishioners in financial crisis
- A new CCT micro-enterprise training system, including scholarships helping people (including formerly incarcerated) to start their own small businesses to provide for their families
- New Bi-monthly convenings designed for valley congregations to build biblical and pragmatic foundations for addressing social issues and thriving in their community contexts
- Facilitated church/school matches with the help of a local partner ministry organization
- Dedicated staff linking valley congregations to the assets and resources of the university, seminary & CCT.