National initiative helps local churches cultivate call to ministry among youth
ATLANTA, June 25, 2008 - With fewer than seven percent of today's clergy under the age of 35, many congregations have begun to ask, "Who will lead our church tomorrow?"
Six determined churches are finding innovative ways to answer that question.
They are the spring 2008 recipients of The Fund for Theological Education (FTE) "Cultures of Call" grants, money for congregations and church-related organizations that are involved in the lives, education and vocational discernment of young people in their congregation or local area.
FTE will award nearly $300,000 by 2009 as part of its Calling Congregations initiative, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. Each award ranges between $3,000 and $12,000. September 1, 2008 is the deadline for submission of letters of intent for the Fall 2008 grant cycle for interested congregations and church-related organizations. For more information, go to: http://www.thefund.org/programs/congregations_grants.phtml.
"If congregations take the lead in cultivating the next generation of leaders for the church, we will no longer need to ask where our future leaders will come from," said Jim Goodmann, FTE Calling Congregations Regional Director and Grant Program Administrator. "We will see gifted young leaders across denominations emerge with their full potential to serve church and society."
FTE's Calling Congregations is a national, ecumenical effort to encourage and equip churches to play a leading role in the vocational discernment of young men and women-and to increase the number of gifted young people considering ordained ministry as a profession.
"Where congregations embrace responsibility for the conversation about vocation, there is renewed vision for leadership and members across generations," Goodmann said.
FTE grant recipients for spring 2008 span five different Christian denominations:
* The Catholic Campus Ministry at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas: $12,000 to support To Love and Serve the Lord, encouraging intergenerational dialogue about discernment, service and spiritual practices for the more than 2,500 Catholic students attending SMU.
* First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, Ill.: $9,000 to support The Elisha Project, a program of exploratory internships for four to six college students over two summers, providing an introduction to the inner workings of church life and the practice of ministry. Interns tailor their experience to their own passions and talents, whether liturgical, musical, pastoral or educational.
* Madison Square Church and Oakdale Park Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.: $12,000 for the Madison/Oakdale Leadership Initiative, a collaboration of two Christian Reformed congregations focused on developing a deeper sense of God's call on young lives. Working with mentors and instructors, journaling and self-reporting, young people identify their own gifts as leaders.
* Mount Berry Church at Berry College, Ga.: $3,000 for Discern. Develop. Disciple: Cultivating Vocational Calling at College. Funding will enable dialogue with other schools on the formation of a program that connects students with faculty and ministry mentors to provide theological grounding and practical advice in their students' discernment processes.
* Mountain View Lutheran Church, Edgewood, Wash.: $12,000 for Called by Name: Vocation and God's Sense of Call, an initiative of three interdependent projects: Remodeling Children, Youth, and Family Ministry; a series of annual retreats hosted by Mountain View for regional congregations; and establishment of an educational center for pastors and lay leaders.
* Park Avenue United Methodist Church, Minneapolis, Minn.: $12,000 for the Light the Path project, which provides training and guidance for both youth and their adult mentors, so adults may accompany youth on their spiritual journeys.
FTE's Calling Congregations seeks to establish a national network of 500 congregational and church-related partners by 2009. The Fund also offers regional workshops and national conferences; training programs; teaching tools and Web-based resources; and up to 40 fellowships annually which match a congregation's financial support toward tuition and expenses for a young church member's first year of seminary.
"The question we pose to youth, 'What will you do with your life in light of your faith?' also becomes a question for the congregations that work with young people on the discernment of their call. It is a process with marvelous reciprocity," Goodmann said.
The Fund for Theological Education is a leading ecumenical advocate for excellence and diversity in Christian ministry and theological scholarship. It supports the next generation of leaders among pastors and scholars, providing more than $1.5 million annually in fellowships and a network of support to gifted young people from all denominations and racial/ethnic backgrounds. For more information about FTE, visit www.thefund.org.Media Contact: Kerry Traubert