Youth Theology Network

Leadership and Connection Grants

The Leadership and Connection Grant supports program directors as they expand their expertise to accompany youth in exploring their call.


Develop Leadership Skills to Sustain Your Program

Forum for Theological Exploration will award Leadership and Connection Grants of up to $50,000 to grantees in the Youth Theology Network (YTN). Grant proposals will include activities that either 1) Provide coaching and technical assistance to YTN program directors who need support sustaining their programs or 2) deepen connections and relationships with other YTN program teams.

FTE invites grant proposals from YTN program directors to develop leadership skills and capacities in these areas: marketing, fundraising, recruitment, networking within their institution, networking outside of their institution, alum development, partnership development, and other areas as determined in conversation with FTE’s Director of Community Engagement.

Funds may be used for the professional development of program directors, training and development of their teams, or programmatic efforts to gain skills and experience in the abovementioned areas. Programs may apply jointly and are encouraged to consider using funds for convening other program leaders in their geographic area or affinity.


The YTN Leadership and Connection Grant is available by invitation only to programs that received a High School Youth Theology Initiative (HSYTI) sustainability grant or Lilly Youth Theology Network (LYTN) programs that have remained active in the network. If you have any questions about your eligibility, please contact FTE’s Director of Community Engagement, Allison Arsenault (, before applying. Programs that have previously received a capacity-building grant from FTE can apply as long as they have completed their final reporting. Programs currently holding a grant from the Lilly Endowment are eligible to apply.


Successful proposals will describe the specific leadership needs of the program director or program staff related to sustaining their YTN program. The proposal should identify grant activities and the intended outcomes, detailing the specific impact they hope to achieve through this grant. Proposed activities will strengthen the program staff’s leadership to recruit, fundraise, measure impact, or build partnerships.

Examples could include:

  • Engaging an outside consultant to assess and implement activities related to fundraising, marketing, or social media
  • Creating resources and digital content to expand reach online
  • Participation in the Lake Institute’s program offerings on fundraising
  • Creating a database and processes for tracking alums to continue relationships for fundraising, recruitment or measuring impact
  • Engaging researchers to create a longitudinal study of the program's impact 
  • Partnering with a nearby YTN program to convene local youth ministers to share YTN program offerings and resource their congregations 
  • Coaching for program leaders to develop capacity in relevant areas (i.e. fundraising, recruitment, partnership development).

    Funds may not be used to cover institute participant fees or programming, development of student leaders or overhead costs. This grant is a one-time opportunity to build capacity, so funds may not be used to cover full-time staff salaries or equipment purchases. However, using funds for stipends, honorariums, or compensation for outside consultants is appropriate. Additionally, up to 10% of grant funds can be designated for increasing hours for part-time staff to work on grant related projects.

The application will open on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, and applications will be received until April 15, 2024, at 11:59 pm PST. Applicants will be notified of their status by May 15, 2024.

Grantees must submit a mid-year report by January 15, 2025, and a final report detailing their activities by November 1, 2025. Grantees will be invited to share their projects and mid-year learnings with peers at the 2025 Youth Theology Network Annual Gathering.

A brief narrative that details:

  • Budget: Applicants will describe the budget and complete a budget template, including line item descriptions for how grant funds will be used.  Download a sample budget template.
  • Timeline: Attach an 18-month timeline of proposed activities and outcomes.

The following questions are aimed to guide you in thinking about potential areas where you could strengthen capacity through your grant. Consider the following when preparing your grant application:

  • What strategies, resources, and activities are you using for recruitment? 
  • What have you learned from the strategy, resources, or activities of other YTN program directors that may be helpful to you and your program? 
  • Are there other relationships or partnerships you might need to develop to help with recruitment?
  • How do you engage with and support alums? 
  • How are alums helpful in your recruitment and fundraising efforts? 
  • Is there anything that might enhance their role and support of your YTN program?
  • How do you promote your YTN program? 
  • What marketing or promotional strategies have been most helpful? 
  • What do you need to learn regarding promotional or marketing strategy? 
  • What kinds of activities have been most valuable in promoting your program?
  • What methods have you employed for fundraising?
  • Have you received financial or in-kind support from your institution? 
  • What are the fundamental practices and aspects of your program that you want to sustain, and how can this capacity-building grant help you set yourself up for success? 
  • What are the benefits of your existing partnerships? 
  • What additional 1 or 2 partnerships would benefit your program and why? 
  • Possible partnerships within your institution include marketing and communications, student life or religious life offices, advancement and admissions. Possible partnerships outside your institution include congregations, denominational bodies or other youth-serving organizations.
  • How will you leverage coaching to complete your capacity-building project, including spending down funds and reporting outcomes to FTE?

A selection committee will evaluate applicants on the following criteria:

  • Has this proposal identified a strategic need for institute leadership related to sustainability, technical skills or relationship building? Does it state explicitly the ways in which that need connects to the ongoing work of the institute?
  • Does this proposal articulate activities and outcomes that respond to the strategic need creatively and compellingly?
  • Does the budget detail adequate funding for the activities proposed? Does it avoid proposing funds for expenses not allowable under the grant?


  • Please complete the following summary sentence. This project is to build the capacity of _________'s (institute name) staff by ________________ (project goal).
  • Please share a few sentences about your high school youth theology program. 
  • Briefly describe the current status of your program, including any major changes since the beginning of your sustainability grant (if applicable).
  • At this stage of your program's development, what are your specific needs as it relates to sustainability? How would building capacity help you move towards sustainability?
  • Describe the specific capacity-building activities that will respond to your strategic need. Detail proposed outcomes for building capacity for the program director and staff, as well as how these outcomes will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the program. Include information about partners in the implementation of this proposal. 
  • Attach an 18-month timeline of proposed activities and outcomes.
  • Attach a budget proposal using the template provided, making full use of the $50,000 grant over an 18-month period. Please note, these funds cannot be used for staff salaries or equipment purchases.

Collaboration with other programs is highly encouraged to build leadership and connections across institutions. Programs should apply jointly by submitting one application by the institution that will be responsible for receiving and disbursing funds. Funds could be used for convening program leaders in their geographic area or affinity. Please contact FTE’s Director of Community Engagement with any questions: Allison Arsenault (

Please contact Allison Arsenault or send a message to us on our contact page.

Info sessions where applicants can ask questions about the process will be held on the following dates:

Thursday, February 15 at 12 pm EST
Monday, March 11 at 3 pm EST
Thursday, March 28 at 12 pm EST


Three Arrows