SPU professor receives $1 million grant to study faith in families

How do churches support families in the faith formation of children? How do church leaders navigate topics of disability, mental health, and sexuality through a Christian lens, and move toward racially conscious ministries? How do parents understand the scriptures on these topics and how do they read them with their children?

These questions and more will be the focus of a research project led by Katherine Douglass, Seattle Pacific University associate professor of educational ministry and practical theology. She received a $1 million grant from Lily Endowment Inc. as part of the Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative to study faith socialization in families. The grant will also bring together ministry leaders and parents for a trip to Hawaii to learn about the impact of disease, family, religion, and government within the former leper colony on Moloka’i.

Douglass will be working with undergraduate and graduate students along with four SPU professors and staff in theology, psychology, and multi-ethnic programs.

“This kind of collaboration across departments, with undergraduates and graduate students, and engaging local congregations is one of the unique things we offer at SPU,” says Douglass. “I am honored to work with such brilliant, faithful people.”

Douglass says the project will support local ministries by hosting learning events on campus for families and ministry leaders around topics like child mental health, disability, gender, sexuality, and race. Additionally, grant funds will be awarded annually to four congregations to support their faith formation ministries, with designated funds to bring those in ministry to the island of Moloka’i, which housed a settlement for leprosy patients from 1866 to 1969. The group will learn how the intersecting dynamics of race, colonization, religion, and disease damaged family social structures, and then consider how the COVID pandemic did similar damage to congregations and families. Those on the pilgrimage will identify ways to move toward healing and reconciliation.

“I believe SPU is the perfect place to host this this project as we have a historic commitment to reconciliation and are currently navigating many of these issues as a campus,” says Douglass. “Our love of Christ centers our community, as well as our commitment to being a place of learning. My hope is that this project will not only impact those families and congregations involved, but will be a ministry resource far beyond the Pacific Northwest to anyone committed to reconciliation while forming the faith of the next generation.”

Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2023