GRIL Teaches Biblically-based Leadership Skills to Teens, Young Adults to Transform Communities

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Grand Rapids Initiative 235Denise Fase is GR Initiative for Leaders executive director.Around Greater Grand Rapids are teens and young adults who have learned biblically-based leadership skills that they in turn make the most of to transform their schools, churches, related-ministries, businesses and communities.

What they learned didn't happen overnight. They committed and applied themselves with one of five programs that GR Initiative for Leaders (GRIL) offers at its Southeast Grand Rapids location.

Purpose and passion

"We equip people to cause the change they're passionate about," said Denise Fase, GRIL's executive director. "We're helping people understand their purpose and passion and connecting them with the ministries and organizations that can enable them to go and cause change and equip them to be the change agents God is calling them to be."

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GRIL was launched by people who graduated from the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (DVULI), a national faith-based leadership development program for urban youth workers in Christian organizations and institutions.

Alumni of DVULI, in turn, wanted to train others. They launched GRIL in 2004 (with specific programs established thereafter) to invest in emerging leaders by training them over a nine-month period using DVULI curriculum that relies on the core values of balance, accountability, empowerment, interdependence, leverage and diversity, meaning a racism-free community.

Transforming communities

"Our mission is to strengthen leaders and transform communities," said Fase. "Maybe they didn't see themselves as leaders who can impact their communities, and maybe it was because of racism, poverty or they didn't realize the power of community and understand how to live their lives together and that's where change can and will happen."

The leadership development programs are intended to help participants work toward creating and living out a "breakthrough" plan for continued growth in their person and organizational lives.

With a $256,000 budget, GRIL to date has graduated 72 adults and 240 teens.

The first three leadership development programs below are nine-month courses; the final two are a shorter duration. They include:

Adult Leadership Program, for urban leaders in churches, ministry and other youth serving organizations who desire to grow spiritually, personally and professionally in their work to directly impact youth in their communities.

GRIL U Teen Faith Based Leadership Program is a training program for teens led by GRIL/DVULI graduates who invest in up to four teens to encourage growth toward becoming Christ like, cross-cultural, servant leaders who in turn will impact their homes, schools, neighborhoods, churches and cities. Teens must be a minimum of 16 years old and commit to two to five hours per week.

Ambassador Program is a school-based training program for teens to grow as leaders who will impact their schools and communities.

The Community Leadership Trainings for adults who attend 90-minute workshops focused on aspects of the Adult Ministry Leadership Program.

Activate Teen Social Justice Curriculum is an eight-session program of study that trains teens as agents of change in their communities by learning about social justice, partnering organizations in their community, interventions and strategies.

Fase said GRIL plans to launch next year a new program for adults dubbed Emerge that will be based on the Christian Community Development Association's principles that is committed to seeing people and communities wholistically restored. See

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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