Home » Stories of Mission » VMMissions Awarded $1.2M Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. for The Soil and The Seed Project

VMMissions Awarded $1.2M Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. for The Soil and The Seed Project

Contributing artists of The Soil and the Seed Project perform on October 14, 2022, at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church. Photo courtesy of Greg Yoder


HARRISONBURG, VA — Virginia Mennonite Missions has received a grant of $1,222,766 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support and expand the work of The Soil and The Seed Project, a faith formation project based in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The Project is being funded through Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children.

“In the early months of 2021, I had a dozen different conversations with friends who were parents and with church leaders who were struggling to figure out faith formation for children,” recalled Seth Crissman, long-term VMMissions worker. “So I approached VMMissions leadership about a new idea to create practical tools for forming faith through music and art. That idea became The Soil and The Seed Project.”

Seth CrissmanAs project director, Crissman leads a team of artists, writers and musicians to create music, art and “Little Liturgies” that can be used at home in the ordinary moments of life. So far, the team has produced seven albums and Little Liturgies that correspond to two cycles of the Revised Common Lectionary. Many of the song lyrics use direct quotes from Scripture. “Our work is to come alongside churches and families as the good news takes root and God bears good fruit in our lives,” said Crissman.

The project is designed to be intergenerational, theologically robust and immediately accessible to anyone who uses it. Initially intended to support 300 households, The Soil and The Seed Project currently serves ten times that many scattered across the United States and the world. The music has been streamed in over 70 countries.

“Being and making disciples of Jesus is the heart of what we do at VMMissions, and that starts at home,” reflected Aaron Kauffman, VMMissions president. “I love using the beautiful songs and liturgies from The Soil and the Seed Project to nurture faith with my own children. Lilly Endowment’s grant will enable us to make these resources available to a lot more people.”

Generous financial support from partnering households and congregations has funded the project thus far, allowing VMMissions to give away these fresh liturgical materials as a free gift to the church. Lilly Endowment’s grant will build on that support to fund a concert series, small group gatherings and retreats, and new musical and written resources.

Crissman explained, “The last two years have been about creating and sending out resources. We will now be able to gather together parents, caregivers and church leaders to offer a higher level of support while still creating new Little Liturgies, art and music. We’re really excited about the new things this grant enables us to do in the church and broader community, and we can’t wait to get started.”

VMMissions is one of 77 organizations that are receiving grants through this competitive round of the initiative. Reflecting the diversity of Christianity in the United States, the organizations are affiliated with mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Pentecostal faith communities. Many of the organizations are rooted in Black church, Hispanic and Asian Christian traditions.

“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,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “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.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative in 2022 because of its interest in supporting efforts to help individuals and families from diverse Christian communities draw more fully on the wisdom of Christian practices to live out their faith fully and well, passing on a vibrant faith to a new generation.

About Lilly Endowment Inc.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. A principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

Press contact: Jon Trotter
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