MidAmerica Nazarene University and Trevecca Nazarene University received grants to establish a youth theology summer institute as part of Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service. Together the schools received more than 1.1 million dollars.
Beginning in summer 2016, the YES camp at MNU will welcome high school juniors and seniors engaged in exploring a call to ministry. The students will stay on campus in residence halls and enjoy workshops, speakers, activities, and fun while learning from a variety of ministry partners. MNU’s Christian Ministry and Formation faculty will join with resources such as Nazarene Theological Seminary, the Olathe Pastor's Network, the Church of the Nazarene, Nazarene Youth International, Youth Front, Christian high schools, and others to facilitate discussion groups, conduct focus groups on youth engagement in local ministry, and to host service opportunities throughout the summer camp. The conference will utilize resources from the spectrum of programs and services available at MNU to facilitate the event.
Randy Cloud, program director, says students will discuss not only theology and Bible, but will also investigate other ministry areas such as multicultural opportunities, worship, sharing one’s faith, ethics, and spiritual formation.
“We are grateful for this award and are committed to being good stewards of this grant,” Cloud said. “The end goal of the institute is to help high school students see themselves as leaders in their churches both locally and globally. This program will have significant implications for the future of the church.”
Trevecca's summer immersion program is open to students in grades nine through 12, including rising ninth graders and recent graduates, starting in the summer of 2017. Participants who are accepted will take part in Mission Nashville, a five-day, hands-on urban ministry opportunity based at Trevecca, then remain on campus for an additional week for more intensive theological training related to contemporary challenges in the world, such as reconciliation, poverty, and immigration. Students will learn from Trevecca professors and visiting scholars, engage in group discussions, meet with leaders of ministry organizations, and discern how God is calling them to respond to the needs of the world.
“This is an opportunity for Trevecca to take a role in helping our youth to engage important questions and think about the work of the church in the world,” said Heather Daugherty, associate chaplain at Trevecca and principal investigator of the grant. “I think the gospel calls us to a particular way of seeing the world. We want to give youth the tools to engage the world theologically and understand their part in God’s work in the world — not just someday, but right now — and explore how that will shape the rest of their lives.”
A total of 82 schools in 29 states and the District of Columbia are participating in the initiative. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal, and historic African-American Christian communities.
“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”
The endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.
An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.
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 grantmaking 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.