Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion Case Study Spotlights C2 Leadership Institute

January 24, 2023
Community Garden

(Getty Images)

Study focuses on organization’s efforts to equip faith leaders to be successful in garnering partners and funders for community development and engagement

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WACO, Texas (Jan. 24, 2023) – Faith organizations have traditionally served as first responders when crisis occurs in personal lives as well as in the community. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many institutions shut down, faith organizations kept their doors open, distributed needed food and provided cared for the elderly and many others who are shut-in. They play a critical role as a lifeline to many vulnerable members of society, serving as a place for empowering lives.

Yet, for all the good they do, faith organizations can do so much more if their efforts and resources could be better recognized and leveraged, through public-private partnerships to sustain and grow their work. Many of these faith leaders and institutions, unfortunately, are ill-equipped to successfully navigate the landscape of various stakeholders outside the walls of their institutions because they lack the skills, tools, relationships and mentorships. The C2 Leadership Institute, organized by Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE), has been successfully training and equipping faith leaders to do so with many successful and tangible outcomes.

A case study on this unique capacity-building program is published through Baylor’s Institute for the Studies of Religion.

“Faith leaders, especially senior pastors, are often reticent to ‘toot their own horn’ when it comes to creating visibility for the valuable work they are doing in their communities,” said Byron R. Johnson, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences and founding director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion. “The C2 Leadership Institute adapts established private sector strategies for the purpose of growing and sustaining these vital services by training faith leaders to identify and network with public and private charitable efforts.”

“There is valuable, but often invisible, work being done by faith leaders in their community across the country,” said Hyepin Im, M.B.A., M.Div., President and CEO of FACE and primary author of the C2 Leadership Institute curriculum.

“The goal of C2 Leadership Institute is to help these leaders recognize the importance of communications, press releases and other tools to garner more attention, resources and partners to grow and sustain these ministries to meet the needs they are serving, such as affordable housing, supports for individuals experiencing homelessness and youth mentoring,” Im said. “Successfully navigating the complex community development landscape without the mentorship, skills and tools is nearly impossible. The C2 Leadership Institute provides that support that has been missing in the marketplace.”

Dating back to 2001, efforts to build the capacity of faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) was a staple of President George W. Bush’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative (FBCI). These capacity-building programs, funded through the Compassion Capital Fund via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, focused on a wide range of training topics, ranging from board development to strategic planning and grant-writing.

Faith and Community Empowerment (FACE), previously named Korean Churches for Community Development, was a grantee serving in this intermediary capacity through these grants, originally focused on the Korean church but eventually branching out to serve other communities. Based in Los Angeles, the C2 Leadership Institute has trained over 60 faith and community leaders since 2016, with a new cohort scheduled for September of 2023.

In this Q&A, co-authors Johnson and ISR non-resident fellow William Wubbenhorst, Ph.D., explain the distinctive elements of the C2 Leadership Institute Table they discovered through the case study development. 

Q:  What makes the C2 Leadership Institute unique in its community capacity-building efforts?

Wubbenhorst: The C2 Leadership Institute is unique in two respects. First, C2 Leadership Institute mostly targeted faith and community leaders, mostly senior pastors of churches, as opposed to faith-based and community organizations, which are primarily stand-alone service-based non-profits that are separate from churches. Second, the C2 Leadership Institute training focuses mostly on issues pertaining to marketing and communications, media relations, government relations, fundraising and packaging that leads to attracting partners, funders and volunteers in addition to the more common areas of stakeholder engagement and community collaboration.

Q. What kind of outcomes and impact did you observe from the C2 Institute graduates?

Wubbenhorst: As this is only a preliminary study, it was not possible to do a rigorous analysis of how and whether the C2 Leadership Institute training contributed to the development and growth of church-based ministries and programs. However, interviews conducted with a sampling provided strong positive reviews on how the program gave them needed skills and partnering strategies. 

For example, C2 Leadership Institute helped Rev. Gary Bernard Williams, Senior Pastor of St. Marks United Methodist Church in south Los Angeles, establish a community garden, with plans to start another larger garden which he was able to recently attain and develop. Pastor Williams described: “Because of what I learned at C2 Leadership Institute, I am prepared to pitch anytime and anywhere, and our network of relationships has expanded significantly, and because of this greater financial stability, we are able to pursue our plans. The C2 Leadership Institute training was all about organizing your thinking and knowing your audience and gave me more of a hustle mentality to connect with foundation and other funding sources to attract the resources we needed to better serve our community.”

Subsequently, he has received media coverage and $50,000 in funding for an additional project as a result of the skills he attained through C2 Leadership Institute.

Q: Will you do future research on capacity-building efforts like the C2 Leadership Institute?

Johnson: Yes, we hope we have the opportunity to do a more rigorous, longitudinal evaluation of the C2 Leadership Institute program. All too often, social services policy is debated in places like Washington, D.C., among so-called policymakers, while the work happening in local communities is unnoticed and under-appreciated. I think the work of Hyepin Im and Faith and Community Empowerment is where we need to recognize where and how communities rise or fall based on the works of these unsung heroes among our faith leaders.


Launched in August 2004, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) initiates, supports and conducts research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, theology and religious studies. The institute’s mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history, and embraces the study of religious effects on prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development and social conflict.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Established in 2001, FACE’s mission is to advance the Asian American community's participation, contribution, and influence through faith and community partnerships. FACE serves as a light and bridge between the Asian American community and the greater community at large by connecting and creating private and public collaboration, maximizing the capacities of faith-based organizations and other community non-profits, increasing access to resources and funds, and assisting low-income individuals and revitalizing neighborhoods. Since its founding, FACE has garnered over 800+ partners from White House to Fortune 500 companies for many of its initiatives from homeownership, affordable housing, workforce development, mental health, financial literacy, capacity building, clean energy, advocacy and fighting anti-Asian hate and promoting racial solidarity.


C2 Leadership Institute is a transformative leadership program that empowers leaders and awakens them to new possibilities and sustainability for their ministries by strengthening church and community partnerships in community development through community engagement and advocacy. The 15-week bootcamp provides fellows the needed skills, tools, relationships and mentorships to successfully launch, strengthen and sustain a new community project or an existing program.