Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, received a $458,502 grant on June 29 to address the decline of church attendance and religious affiliation among youth.

Through the three-year grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., Hope College aims to bring young adults back to the church.

Hope College announced that the grant will support an initiative called, “Generation Spark: Mentoring Tomorrow’s Church Leaders.”

The college said in its campus news article that the program’s approach is to work with churches to focus on millennials and young adults who no longer take part in faith based organizations, and reconnect them. Hope College stated in a press release that “as the project runs, the youth-adult teams at the churches will identify and begin working on problems that interest them within church or community.” 

Virgil Gulker, servant-leader in residence with Hope’s Center for Leadership and the program director for the new project, stated that “it is time to suggest a practical strategy to move church leaders from frustrated awareness to an action plan designed to not simply retain youth and older adults but to actually attract and engage them.”

Gulker pointed to studies that say that 70 percent of people raised within the church no longer attend by their 20s.

High school and college students at the college’s Center for Leadership researched the cause of the decline in church attendance and millennial participation in 2014, finding the reason to be “the absence of any meaningful plan to involve youth with the church, its adult members or its vision,” Gulker explained.

The program will be implemented within the churches of the Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Church in North America, stated the college. With denominations each connecting with six churches in “urban, rural, and suburban settings,” it hopes to begin resolving the disconnect between the church and young adults, according to a press release from the college.

The college stated that the end goal of the initial implementation of Generation Spark is to create a model in which congregations can implement this project in their own churches.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a family owned private foundation from Indianapolis that was created in 1937. The foundation’s primarily focuses on the efforts of religion, education, and community development, as stated in their website.