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‘Change Agent’ Millennials Gather to Explore Countercultural Path to Impact Their World

27 May

For Immediate Release

May 2008

  • In city shaped by Dr. King's legacy, gifted youth look to ministry as way to lead change
  • Diverse 'Generation Next' redefines role of faith in work and life
  • Students cross boundaries of denomination & race to seek purpose, lives of service

WHO: A cross-section of young people from 40 U.S. states and Canada seeking leadership roles in the 'serving professions' of ministry and teaching. These college, seminary and doctoral students are self-described "boundary-crossers, internationalists, justice-seekers and sector-connectors" who want to make a difference. While self-gain seems a standard of popular culture, these 170 leading students see service and social justice as priorities. They are Fund for Theological Education (FTE) fellowship recipients, selected competitively from applicants nationwide to receive financial support on their quest to become future pastors and scholars. The students represent a wide ecumenical, socioeconomic, geographic and ideological spectrum-they are liberal and conservative; African-American, Asian-American, Caucasian and Hispanic, from urban and rural communities, representing more than 30 different denominations and nondenominational churches nationwide.

Interviews available: university and seminary students; FTE President Trace Haythorn (an expert on youth attitudes toward vocations and values, the changing face of the church, youth and public service); FTE Vice Presidents Sharon Watson Fluker and Melissa Wiginton; Morehouse College President Robert Franklin (keynote speaker); and students attending Atlanta-area colleges and theological schools.

WHAT: Next Generation Leaders: Voices & Vocations That Change the World, a national Fund for Theological Education (FTE) Conference for young leaders preparing to be ministers and teachers. Given a decline in the number of clergy under age 35 and the need to improve diversity in the teaching of religion and theology, FTE seeks to boost the supply and quality of candidates in these professions.

WHEN: June 8-15, 2008

WHERE: Emory University, Atlanta

FTE: FTE is an ecumenical nonprofit that supports the next generation of leaders among pastors and scholars. It provides more than $1.5 million annually in fellowships and support to gifted young people from all denominations and racial/ethnic backgrounds. FTE has awarded $16 million in support to nearly 1,500 students since establishing its national headquarters in Atlanta in 1998; it was created in 1954 by leading educators, clergy and philanthropists who were concerned that the quality of students entering the ministry had declined and that many gifted students were choosing other careers.


  • Who will Lead Your Church Tomorrow? The nation's churches need qualified young clergy as Baby Boomer pastors prepare to retire and fewer than half of seminary students show interest in congregational ministry. But while studies show a 20-year decline in clergy under age 35, a new generation-motivated by a passion for eradicating poverty, homelessness, violence and social injustice-is picking up the mantle of ministry. Even as segments of Generation Y turn from the church, a new generation of leaders is stepping up to enter U.S. pulpits.
  • Narcissistic Millennials? A recent study calls Generation Y "the most narcissistic generation in recent history." But an Atlanta nonprofit says otherwise, pointing to a decade of work among gifted young leaders who, motivated by faith, are driven to make a difference.
  • A Countercultural Call? Is the call to pastoral ministry a fading voice for Christian Millennials? Fewer than seven percent of clergy today are under the age of 35 and the academy needs to attract diverse young scholars. Do lucrative careers trump lives of service among today's students? The next generation of pastors and scholars seek space and support-from adults and one another-to follow an uncommon calling.
  • Diversity Gap: Religious differences in a pluralistic world often drive conflict. Yet the academic discipline so vital to improving mutual understanding is itself lacking in racial/ethnic diversity. More than one-third of North American theological schools report they have no faculty of color; among all religion and theology graduate programs some 90 percent of the faculty is Caucasian. Meet emerging African-American religion scholars on a journey to become the next generation of faculty leaders for the academy.
  • Losing Our Religion? A recent Pew Center study shows movement within, between and out of religious denominations. Where is Generation Y in this shifting landscape? What draws them to faith, what drives them away, and why are some considering ordained ministry? What kind of church will they build? What kind of leaders will they be? Undergraduates, seminary students and Ph.D. candidates weigh in on leadership for a changing church.
  • Nonprofit Servant Leadership Gap: Studies show the nonprofit sector faces a potential leadership gap, particularly in congregational ministry. But some gifted young people still have their sights set on serving others. Meet young leaders preparing to be pastors, with an eye on changing the world, not cashing in.

Contact: Kerry Traubert


The organizations and/or individuals who submit materials for distribution by Religion News Service are solely responsible for the facts in and accuracy of their materials. Religion News Service will correct any errors brought to its attention.

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