Southwestern College has received a grant of more than a half million dollars to establish an annual youth leadership summit through the college’s Institute for Discipleship. The $506,403 grant is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.
The grant will fund a full-time Southwestern College employee who will work within a 350-mile radius of the college to identify students who will be invited to apply to attend a selective one-week summer summit. The Summit will help participants explore the spiritual call in each of their lives and will be administered by the Institute for Discipleship.
Dr. Stephen Wilke, vice president for planning and new programs and executive director of the Institute for Discipleship, has been instrumental in setting the vision for The Summit and obtaining the Lilly grant.
“We are looking for students who have a fit and affinity for the culture of Southwestern College, for its values and its interest in making a difference in the world,” Wilke explains. “The college has a long-standing tradition of emphasizing each person’s call to service, with programs in place that help our current students explore their call to ministry.”
“The Summit will supplement what we already do by reaching out into the community, identifying and encouraging high school students to begin this exploration before they even apply to attend college, and connecting them with a network of religious leaders and scholars, college students, and peers who share a deep desire for faithful discipleship,” Wilke adds.
The Summit will be non-denominational, although its programs will be based on Wesleyan theology.
A director for the program is expected to be named in April.
Southwestern College is one of 82 schools participating in the Lilly 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 traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.
“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the 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.”
The Lilly endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help a select group of private four-year colleges and universities around the nation to create the institutes. The grants are part of the endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.
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.