Baylor University Awarded Second $1 Million Lilly Endowment Inc. Grant To Expand Youth Worship Initiative

Second award brings the total to this initiative to $2.2 million from Lilly Endowment Inc.

April 24, 2024
Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies

(Photo Credit: Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies)

Contact: Shelby Cefaratti-Bertin, Baylor University Media & Public Relations, 254-327-8012
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WACO, Texas (April 24, 2024) – Baylor University's Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies in the Baylor School of Music has been awarded a four-year $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. as part of its Strengthening Ministries with Youth Initiative. This award comes as phase one of the Dunn Center’s Building Bridges to the Future project – a $1.2 million award designed to enrich youth worship ministries – nears its conclusion. 

“We are immensely grateful to the Lilly Endowment for their ongoing commitment to bolster music and worship initiatives that foster life-long worship leadership and service,” said Randall Bradley, D.M.A., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Church Music, professor of church music and the director of the Church Music Program and the Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies. “We are humbled by the Lilly Endowment’s continued confidence in the Dunn Center’s research capacities and infrastructure.”

Shannan Baker, Ph.D. ’22, post-doctoral fellow in church music and digital humanities, and Chason Disheroon, M.M. ’11, associate director for the Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies, will serve as co-principal investigators for this expanded phase of work titled The Worship Lab Initiative. Begun in 2015, Worship Lab started as a four-day summer camp for aspiring high school worship leaders. As a new phase of work begins, the Dunn Center will equip the local church by restructuring Worship Lab as a broader brand of worship-related resources that will include a five-day summer camp, one-day church workshops, a curated website of instructional videos and more. 

“Our previous grant focused on equipping students and sending them back to their local context. This new grant allows us to engage with our church partners at the local level,” Baker said. “The new grant has two main partner types—model churches and growth churches. Our goal is to identify what is working well for youth worship bands to create models for youth worship ministry. We want to find ways to scale and adapt those models to address challenges in other contexts that are seeking to grow and develop their programs.”

The Worship Lab Initiative seeks to enhance youth music and worship ministries through innovative trainings, research and resources. Disheroon, who has worked with the youth initiative since its inception said empowering young people is critical to the growth of today’s church communities.

“Investing in the education and empowerment of young people is a vital component to ensuring greater student involvement and higher retention rates in church communities and music ensembles beyond high school,” Disheroon said. “Our work at Baylor is to encourage students to become skilled, confident leaders who remain engaged with worship ministries long beyond their teenage years.” 


Lilly Endowment Inc.  is an Indianapolis-based private foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.


The Dunn Center’s vision is to foster growth and utilize Christian music to its God-given potential. Through the work of the Building Bridges to the Future project, Baylor University is shaping the next generation of church leaders and will continue to expand this important work through a new chapter of research and development in the Worship Lab Initiative. Visit Dunn Center for Christian Music Studies for more information about the initiative.


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 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.