Conectere is an interdisciplinary project that supports secure Christian parenting and caregiving.
The project focuses on relational attachment bonds, an important factor that is largely unaddressed in current faith formation research and resources.
A grant of $1,248,874 from Lilly Endowment Inc. will make it possible for the establishment of Conectere at Eastern Mennonite University.
The grant is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Christian Parenting and Caregiving Initiative, which aims to help parents and caregivers share their faith and values with their children. Conectere will join parents and caregivers around shared concerns about their children’s faith and values, linking religious practices with psychological insights to support secure bonds between caregivers and their children. The initiative is based on cutting-edge research and practice, and will foster increased effectiveness in the transmission of faith and values to children.
At EMU, Conectere brings together the expertise of professors in theology and psychology to support Christian communities in faith formation and attachment security with children. Sarah Ann Bixler, assistant professor of formation and practical theology and associate dean of the seminary at EMU, and Almeda Wright, associate professor of religious education at Yale Divinity School, will serve as co-principal investigators and develop resources for congregational leaders and faith communities. Greg Czyszczon, assistant professor of counseling at EMU, will direct the Restoring Connections Lab where cohorts of 15-20 caregivers will meet with trained facilitators to listen, share, build trust and learn about growing children in faith and the practices of secure attachment.
Conectere investigates a critical factor that affects the outcome of sharing faith and values: attachment, the relational connection between caregivers and children. By understanding how attachment security impacts the transmission of faith and values in particular contexts, Conectere will train caregivers in culturally appropriate practices of attunement and flexibility, partnering with them to adapt their faith formation practices to serve the faith outcomes they deeply desire for their children.
“Many faith communities in the U.S. wonder how to stem the tide of young people leaving,” Bixler observed. “By bringing together theology and psychology, we find that sharing faith and building secure relationships have to go hand in hand. If you have one without the other, faith probably won’t stick in the next generation. I’m eager to work with my wise colleagues at Yale and EMU to understand this better and to support parents, caregivers and faith leaders in passing on faith and values to their children.”
The project’s name is from the Latin word meaning join, link, bond and lead to, and has three components: research, practices and resources. The initiative will conduct research in a practice lab with caregivers and children to understand how faith formation works in particular Christian subcultures. Resources will be developed to provide education about attachment and faith formation through curriculum, presentations, workshops and practice-based networks of parents, caregivers and ministry leaders.
EMU is one of 77 organizations that are receiving grants through this competitive round of the Christian Parenting initiative.
“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 Inc. 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.