Tabor College receives $600,000 grant


Ministry Quest transitions to Faith Front this summer

 Tabor College news release with files from Connie Faber

Tabor College has received a $600,000 grant to establish Faith Front as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes (HSTYI) initiative. The initiative 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.

Faith Front is designed to equip Mennonite Brethren and other Christian youth, ages 14 to 19, develop theological competencies essential for ministry leadership with special emphasis on pastoral ministry and other church vocations.  

Ministry Quest (MQ), Tabor’s current leadership program for high school youth, will transition to Faith Front in July 2016. During the past four years, Tabor has operated MQ, which the college acquired from MB Biblical Seminary in 2011.

The U.S. Conference (USMB) has been a partnering organization in MQ and is also backing Faith Front. “We enthusiastically support Tabor College’s effort to encourage their constituent youth to open themselves up to God’s call on their lives, with special emphasis on pastoral ministry and other forms of church leadership,” writes Don Morris, USMB interim executive director, in his letter to Lilly Endowment supporting Tabor’s application. Morris indicates USMB will help to promote the program to constituent churches and to qualified students and will assist students who have successfully completed the program with ongoing ministry opportunities.

Tabor’s vision to adopt MQ and its commitment to continue the program demonstrated the college’s passion for youth leadership development, says Wendell Loewen, current MQ director and professor of youth, church and culture.

Loewen believes that utilizing Lilly Endowment funds with a new youth theology institute project will greatly enhance the college’s vision for youth leadership development. That being said, the core values and best practices of MQ will remain in the new program and the best of MQ will be incorporated into Faith Front.

The heart of Faith Front will be a summer mobile “intensive” retreat designed as a lab to help participants engage their culture by interacting with a variety of global issues that call for Christian action. 

Faith Front will also include: workshops that encourage local churches to cultivate a culture of calling; on-campus retreat weekends that help high school students explore what it means to think theologically; a ministry innovation program that offers Faith Front graduates the opportunity to strengthen their leadership competencies and ministry tools; and establishment of a ministry leadership center that can catalyze and centralize denominational leadership development efforts.  

Loewen will direct the program with the help of Tabor’s religious and biblical studies professors and a variety of denominational leaders.

Students will be able to apply for Faith Front in July of 2016 with the first weekend event slated for later in the fall.

“Our aim is to inspire participants to learn and utilize a model of innovative theological reflection and engagement with culture,” Loewen says. “Our ultimate goal is to identify, equip and empower a growing community of called, skilled and equipped leaders for the church.”

Tabor College President Jules Glanzer is excited to see the impact this program will have on future Tabor students. 

“Faith Front is a wonderful way to serve the youth in our constituency and our churches,” Glanzer says. “With all the challenges our society presents, for those who are followers of Christ Faith Front will help train and equip the next generation of leaders to make a difference in the world, making it more as God intended it.” 

Tabor College is one of 82 schools 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 traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, 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,” says 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.” 

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.  

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

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.

USMB file photo: Faith Front will continue an emphasis on helping teens, including this recent Ministry Quest cohort, consider God's call on their lives. 



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