Lilly Endowment Grant Encourages Program to Attract Teenagers to Theological Inquiry and Ministry

Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary has been selected to receive a grant of $1.6 million from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to participate in a national program to provide opportunities for high-school-age young people to engage in theological study and inquiry.

Seminaries and divinity schools were invited to create new programs that provide opportunities for young people to have a serious intellectual encounter with the theological resources of the Christian faith and to explore in depth its significance for their own lives and vocations.

MBBS has a four-year plan with multiple components. Congregations will be equipped to more effectively "call out" young people. High school students will attend retreats on the seminary campus and in regional locations in the US and Canada, encouraging them to "hear the call" of God to consider church leadership and ministry as a vocation, and providing them with the opportunity to meet seminary professors and students. Several cohorts of students will be selected for the "Youth Leadership Network", a two-year program of seminars and mentoring, with web-based interaction and supervised ministry experiences. MBBS will work closely with youth pastors, local churches, high schools and camps to select and encourage those young people with demonstrated gifts and skills in leadership and ministry. The goal will be to create a vision of ministry that high school young people can understand and to which they will respond positively.

President Schmidt says, "For us this comes at a strategic time when there is a leadership shortage in our churches. This grant makes it possible for us to serve the church by focusing on the 'calling out of young people'. This is an initiative that our board of directors funded before this grant became available by bringing a group of high school students from Calgary, Alberta to visit the Seminary in Fresno, California."

Altogether over the last decade, and including this round, the Endowment has funded 49 schools with a total of $57.3 million.

"What we're hearing 'from the field' is most encouraging," said Craig Dykstra, Endowment vice president for religion. "Faculty, pastors, teens and their families report that young people have been captivated by their concentrated study of the Christian tradition, their faith has been strengthened, and many are beginning to explore vocations of service in Christian ministry.

"The young people are eager to explore these topics, and they are excited by discovering how faith affects so many aspects of contemporary personal and community life," he said.

The initiative addresses one are of the Endowment's two major and interrelated goals in its religion grant making: to attract a new generation of talented persons to the ministry while honoring the high calling of pastors serving congregations now - and to help build vibrant and healthy congregations throughout the country.

Founded in 1937, the Endowment is a private foundation that follows its founders' wishes in supporting the causes of religion, community development and education.

Contact: Dr. James Pankratz (Academic Dean) 559-251-8628

Posted: July 08, 2002