A five-year grant of nearly $1 million to The Neighboring Movement will help boost its mission in churches across the country, its executive director says.
The Wichita-based nonprofit, which began in 2015 as SoCe Life, has received a $999,058 Thriving Congregations Initiative 2020 grant from the Lilly Endowment.
“This is a bigger grant than we’ve ever received by about $900,000,” the Rev. Adam Barlow-Thompson, executive director and co-founder said.
Knowing his group could not have a chance to get the funding by itself, it worked with its longtime partner, the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.
“We knew as soon as we read the request for proposal that Lilly had put out that it was so aligned with what we were already doing,” Barlow-Thompson said. “It’s like we could have written it with them together, it was so aligned.”
The grant, he said, will allow the Neighboring Movement to work with churches to expand its Good Neighbor Experiment, a nine-month cohort model. About 10 churches a year have learned and implemented neighboring methods through workshops, small-group curriculum and coaching.
“The whole purpose in that is that a church moves from scarcity to abundance, and it moves from thinking of itself as a service provider to thinking of itself as a community connector,” Barlow-Thompson said.
About 50 churches have gone through the Good Neighbor Experiment, he said. Although many are United Methodist churches in the Great Plains, it is expanding to all denominations and outside the two-state area.
The grant will help train a network of facilitators who can lead the curriculum in regional areas, with trainers already interested in Florida, North Carolina, Texas and Iowa, Barlow-Thompson said.
David Jordan, president and CEO of the United Methodist Health Fund, said the grant can improve the mental and physical health of persons in the congregations.
"As congregations struggle with social isolation and health challenges, this grant and our partnership with the Neighboring Movement will help us equip each church with the strengths and skills to improve the health of their congregation and community as well as strengthen their ministry," Jordan said in a news release.
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