Diocese of Louisiana to develop ‘Episco-parenting Care Kits’ with $1.25 million Lilly grant

By David Paulsen
Posted Jul 27, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] Subscription boxes packed with educational activities for kids have become a popular resource for parents. The Diocese of Louisiana recently was awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to apply the subscription kit concept to Christian formation.

The diocese’s proposal to develop “Episco-parenting Care Kits” was included in a round of 77 grants from the Lilly Endowment, which also awarded a separate $1.25 million grant to The Episcopal Church’s Department of Faith Formation. The grants are part of Lilly’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative, which focuses on “the pivotal role parents play in the religious lives of their children.”

The Diocese of Louisiana, which covers the state’s southeast region, will use its grant over a five-year period to develop a religious education curriculum in English and Spanish, to recruit a pilot group of families to try an initial batch of kits based on that curriculum and to use the feedback to finalize a sustainable fee-based subscription service that can be replicated by other dioceses and Christian organizations.

“We know there has to be a different model to reach our families and our children,” Louisiana Bishop Shannon Duckworth said in an interview with Episcopal News Service. The kits will equip and support parents in their efforts at Christian education while also connecting them more closely with their faith communities.

The diocese plans to identify about 100 families interested in participating in the subscription service’s first year, some through their connections with the diocese’s churches and schools, though the kits also will be offered to anyone interested in testing them out, including families with no connection to The Episcopal Church. Each kit will focus on a different Christian topic, from baptism to Bible stories to dealing with grief.

“We can provide personalized spiritual content and connections for families wherever they are, on their schedule, and tailored to their unique situations,” Duckworth said in July 26 a news release announcing the grant. “This approach will be a game-changer, helping to support families when faced with many of life’s most important questions.”

The goal is to “help parents pass on the traditions of their faith to their children,” the Rev. Morgan MacIntire, canon to the ordinary, told ENS. Each box, delivered by mail, will include activities, reading materials, links to online videos and suggestions for community resources on the topic. Some also will include gift cards for food or bread-baking kits, emphasizing the bond families develop around meals.

For Episcopal congregations, MacIntire said the kits also will parallel local youth programs, which may be an especially valuable resource for smaller congregations that can’t afford to hire dedicated youth ministers.

The Diocese of Louisiana was among the organizations that receive the maximum amount available from the Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative, which announced grants this month ranging from $240,000 to $1.25 million. The Episcopal Church also received the maximum amount to launch “The Camino Project,” a five-year initiative aimed at helping parents and congregations embrace raising faith-filled children, especially in nontraditional, non-dominant-culture families.

Through “The Camino Project,” the Department of Faith Formation will provide Spanish and English resources, community cohorts, and pilgrimage experiences for families and congregations throughout the parenting years.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to walk with congregations and parents on this journey of parenthood,” the Rev. Shannon Kelly, director of the Department of Faith Formation, said in a news release. “It is our hope that families and congregations will deepen their faith by intentionally leaning into key moments of change as we travel this journey together.”

Christopher Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion, applauded the grant program’s 77 recipients for their commitment to helping parents and children grow in their faith.

“We’ve heard from many parents who are seeking to nurture the spiritual lives of their children, especially in their daily activities, and looking to churches and other faith-based organizations for support,” Coble said. “These thoughtful, creative and collaborative organizations embrace the important role that families have in shaping the religious development of children and are launching programs to assist parents and caregivers with this task.”

The Diocese of Louisiana, after spending much of 2024 preparing its curriculum, plans to release six Episco-parenting Care Kits in 2025 and will continue adding new kits after that. When the trial period concludes, the diocese will have a full set of kits, available to parents through reasonably priced subscriptions – and available to other dioceses interested in replicating the subscription service.

“We hope by the end of this five-year period this is something we can share in a broad way,” Duckworth told ENS.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.