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

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,

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


Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations