*Visit the Family Leadership Initiative or Urban Church Leadership Center website by clicking on the boxes above.

The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has had a longstanding commitment to strengthening churches, inspiring healthy families, and enriching pastoral and family leadership. In 2007, a study of Kent County congregations led to the publication of a report titled Gatherings of Hope: How Religious Congregations Contribute to the Quality of Life in Kent County. This report helped inform over a decade of close collaboration with congregational leaders and families in Greater Grand Rapids. This collaborative work became known as Gatherings of Hope (GOH).
The report’s findings inspired the launch of several initiatives in 2011. They included seminary courses such as Leading Community Ministry at Cornerstone University and the Hispanic Ministry Certificate at Calvin Theological Seminary. The Family Leadership Initiative (FLI) also was launched in 2011. FLI is a biblically based family ministry model that trains, supports, and provides resources to urban churches to help them develop healthy families.

Ten years after the first study was conducted, GOH released an updated report titled the Greater Grand Rapids Study of Congregations: Congregational Life and Leadership in our Urban Area. That 2017 report underscored the need for the recently launched Urban Church Leadership Center (UCLC) and helped shape the Center’s focus on providing a personal and professional development center that would train, support, and provide urban church leaders with learning resources and renewal.

Building on this previous work, another opportunity for partnership with urban churches presented itself in 2020. The Grand Rapids Theological Seminary of Cornerstone University and the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation announced the UCLC’s new Thriving Congregations Initiative, which provides a bigger platform to help clergy and lay leaders build competencies that empower churches to thrive at a deeper level. The initiative, which is generously funded by the Lilly Endowment, will engage church leaders in cohort-based learning over the next four years.

In late 2020, the Gatherings of Hope (GOH) brand officially sunset. The Foundation now places greater focus on the two pillars of its congregational initiatives: FLI and the UCLC. Entering its fourth year of operation, the UCLC will extend its efforts to meet the needs of church leaders and congregations. Meanwhile, as FLI enters its tenth year of service, it will continue to equip churches to strengthen families.