Northwestern College awarded grant for high school theology institute

Northwestern College has been awarded a $440,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to create “Living Your Faith,” a summer institute for high school students. The institute is part of the Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore their religious beliefs and their concerns about contemporary challenges by studying theology and examining how faith calls them to lives of service.

“The goals of Lilly Endowment and the mission of Northwestern College complement each other well,” says Northwestern President Greg Christy. “We’ve partnered with them in the past when they entrusted us with $2.5 million in grants for initiatives to help our students discover God’s calling for their lives. We look forward to doing so again in the development of this institute for high school students.”

According to Dr. James Mead, professor of religion at Northwestern and author of the grant proposal, “Living Your Faith” will be a one-week summer program for rising high school juniors and seniors that will include ongoing mentoring and ministry during the following academic year.

While on campus, the high school students will study Scripture and theology through lectures, discussions and writing assignments led by the college’s religion faculty. They will also participate in small groups facilitated by Northwestern students who are religion majors or campus ministry leaders. Each day will include time for worship, reflection and sharing; break-out sessions on specific topics; guest speakers; small-group meetings with mentors; and service and job-shadowing opportunities designed to introduce program participants to a variety of ministries and agencies.

With funding from the grant, Northwestern will hire a half-time director and offer the first Living Your Faith institute in the summer of 2017. The grant will also support professional development opportunities for the director; stipends for the instructors and college student mentors; advertising and administrative expenses; and a partial subsidy of the cost for housing, meals and transportation for the high school student participants.

“We are incredibly blessed by the generosity of Lilly Endowment,” says Mead, “and extremely pleased to share in its rich tradition of strengthening Christian higher education for service to the church in the world. It will be exciting to see what God has in store for this program in the years to come.”

Northwestern is one of 82 private four-year colleges and universities participating in the initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding Christian traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and develop theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society. An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” says Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at Lilly Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family—J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli—through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.