Baylor’s Truett Seminary Receives $300,000 Sustainability Grant for Sports Institute for Youths Who Hope to Become Leaders in Church and Society

November 20, 2019

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-3321
Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMedia

WACO, Texas (Nov. 20, 2019) — Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has received a $300,000 sustainability grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to continue a program to identity and cultivate youth who will become leaders in church and society.

The Faith & Sport Institute (FSI) Retreat is part of a successful initiative begun in 1998 with Lilly Endowment’s Theological Programs for High School Youth. It received a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment in 2015.

The FSI Retreat program provides a unique annual experience within a diverse community, using a weeklong mentor-guided retreat setting that engages and forms religious teenagers to become discerning, vibrant leaders in sports, church and beyond. It inspires the faith of serious-minded youth to the next level of leadership spiritually and morally in the contested culture of sports.

At the retreat, participants study and interact with FSI faculty, share meals, meet with their mentors, discuss moral and social issues specific to sports and life, learn leadership skills, practice spiritual disciplines, serve with Mission Waco and join in other immersion experiences and competitive sports-virtue labs.

“The FSI Retreat, combined with a year of mentoring, offers a unique experience for high school athletes who not only want to be great in their sport but magnanimous, great people in all of life,” said Cindy White, program director of the Faith and Sport Institute Retreat.

“Grounded on five theological virtues — faith, love, discipline, hope and courage — FSI unpacks their meaning and implications in sports, relationships and vocational calling,” she said. “At the seven-day retreat we learn from professors, coaches, athletes and practitioners. We journey from the classroom to the playing field, from the university to the city and from worship to small groups in order to further contemplate what it looks like to compete in love, freedom and perseverance.”

One female participant commented that “The best thing about FSI was truly learning what it means to integrate both faith and sports together as well as stepping away from the sports scene in order to look at our own city.”

Cindy White added that “FSI offers a transformational experience and an incubator for new ideas and insights on leadership, integrity and authentic community supported by best proven practices.”

The sustainability grant from Lilly Endowment is in step with Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan, and its aspirations to become a Research 1/Tier 1 (R1/T1) institution, joining the nation’s top research universities and achieving status as the world’s preeminent Christian research university.

“The concerns, questions and dilemmas that cut across the sports we cherish call for research and pedagogy that is unambiguously Christian,” said John B. White, Ph.D., The Harold and Dottie Riley Associate Professor of Practical Theology and faculty director of FSI.

“That’s the best of Baylor and Truett combined in the context of athletics,” he said. “However, instead of learning the newest and best offensive and defensive strategies, our ‘chalk talks’ instruct adolescents on how Christian doctrine and virtues can meaningfully intersect and transform why and how they love and play sports. Our retreat model intentionally creates space in which the dynamic, intense laboratory of athletics can serve as a spiritual and moral practice to discover, develop and deepen Christian adolescents’ identity and character.”

White noted that much can be learned about young people and their ultimate concerns by how they play their sports.

“The added value of our research allows us to use validated research instruments to assess the quality of our immersion experience’s outcomes so that our published conclusions will resource the academy, the church and sports culture,” he said. “Our hope, with the sustainability grant, is for both FSI’s seven-day retreat and its one-year commitment of mentoring to continue to translate to and equip teenagers for service and their future callings in the ‘race of life.’”

“We believe wholeheartedly in the idea behind Lilly Endowment’s Youth Theology Network: that, contrary to popular belief, many young Christians want to be challenged to think deeply about questions of ultimate meaning — in short, to think theologically,” said Paul Emory Putz, Ph.D., assistant director of Truett’s Sports Ministry Program.

“We even believe that this idea holds true in sports,” he said. “That's why we're thrilled to receive a grant renewal from Lilly Endowment that will allow us to continue to develop and expand our program. With Lilly Endowment's support combined with the resources that our home at Baylor provides, we believe FSI is uniquely positioned to help young Christian athletes thoughtfully integrate faith and sports and apply those principles to the whole of their lives.”

More than 22,000 young people have participated in Youth Theology Network programs at seminaries, universities and colleges, such as Calvin Theological Seminary, Duke Divinity School, Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Interdenominational Theological Center, Perkins School of Theology (SMU), Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and University of Notre Dame.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary is an orthodox, evangelical school in the historic Baptist tradition that equips God-called people for gospel ministry in and alongside Christ’s Church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Truett Seminary provides theological education leading to the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Theological Studies and Doctor of Ministry. The MACM and MTS degrees also can be completed at the seminary’s Houston campus. In addition, Truett Seminary offers joint degrees: M.Div./M.S.W. and M.T.S./M.S.W. with the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, M.Div./M.B.A. with the Hankamer School of Business, M.Div./J.D. with Baylor Law School, M.Div./M.M. with the School of Music and M.Div./M.S.Ed. or M.Div./M.A. with the School of Education. Visit to learn more.


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.