Theological School Programs for High School Youth
In 1998 Lilly Endowment announced this initiative which supports theological schools in establishing or sustaining programs for high school youth that 1) stimulate and foster an excitement about theological learning and inquiry and 2) identify and encourage talented Christian youth to consider vocations in the ministry. The immediate goal of these projects is to nurture in young people ways of thinking, practices and disciplines essential to the Christian life and to encourage youth to think theologically about contemporary issues. The long-term goal is to recruit a cadre of theologically minded Christian youth who will become ordained ministers and committed lay leaders in their churches and society.
Who will be the next generation of Christian pastors? Who will lead the church in the new millennium? When and how will these young people be recruited, called, and trained? How can churches encourage youth to consider their vocational and life choices in light of their faith commitments and theological traditions? And how can they attract young people with spiritual gifts into Christian ministry?
The Endowment believes that theological schools can play a critical role in addressing these important questions. Seminaries and divinity schools are centers of inquiry, teaching and learning where difficult questions about the human condition are asked, where theological texts and commitments are continually reevaluated and reappropriated, where the theological resources and practices of the Christian tradition are critically examined and carried forward and where future church leaders are trained in the practical wisdom of the Christian faith. As such, theological schools are in a distinctive position to engage high school-aged youth in substantive exploration of central theological issues and to nurture the imaginations of a potential new generation of Christian leaders.
Since the establishment of the Youth Theology Institute at Emory University in 1992, the Endowment has awarded grants to nearly 50 theological schools to launch and sustain youth theology programs. These diverse and innovative programs engage youth in a variety of activities, ranging from the study of classic theological texts in summer institutes to service projects in local communities, from "shadowing" pastors in congregations to study trips to Italy or Greece, from leadership education in wilderness settings to dialogue with pastors and influential church leaders.
The early results of these programs are very promising. Pastors, parents, theological educators, and project directors report that these programs are deepening the faith commitments of participating youth, causing them to rethink their future life choices and to explore the possibility of a life of service in the church. Not surprisingly, a significant number of former youth theology program participants are beginning to appear in seminary classrooms and are now preparing to enter the Christian ministry.
Over the past decade, the Endowment has invested $57.3 million in the initiative, which now involves 48 schools across the country. To assist in sustaining these programs, the Endowment in 2003, offered up to $6.5 million to aid the schools in their development efforts. (For a news release describing the program and grants, click here)
The program director for this grant program is Christopher Coble, 317/924-5471.
The coordinator for this grant program is the Fund for Theological Education. For more information, click here