Campbell receives its largest-ever humanities grant to establish youth theology institute

BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Campbell University has received its largest humanities-oriented grant in history — $593,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. — to establish Fides: Exploring Faith and Vocation, a youth theology institute. Named for the Latin word that means faith or faithfulness, Fides will provide high school students with the opportunity to think theologically about their vocational choices and to combine faith and vocation in social action.

The grant to establish Fides 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.

“We’re grateful to Lilly Endowment for the grant,” said Glenn Jonas, associate dean for Campbell’s College of Arts & Sciences who chaired the committee that developed the Fides grant proposal. “Fides connects perfectly with Campbell’s mission to graduate students with exemplary academic and professional skills who are prepared for purposeful lives and meaningful service. The institute will help teach those principles to high school students.”

The cornerstone of Fides will be a two-week residential program held on Campbell’s main campus for about 60 high school students that will combine theological study and Christian worship with project-based learning experiences. To be developed in collaboration with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the curriculum will emphasize personal worship, corporate worship, small group seminars that engage Scripture and selected theological writings on faith and vocation, and formal and informal group recreational activities. Fides participants will read case studies, take field trips, complete group presentations, and participate in service projects, among other activities.

They will also explore the moral and ethical dimensions of their faith through elective study in four areas that will be developed in collaboration with academic divisions across Campbell and other partners: public health (Campbell’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences); social entrepreneurship (Campbell Business); restorative justice (Campbell Law); and religious leadership (Campbell Divinity, the College of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Religion & Philosophy, and Wake Forest University’s Center for Congregational Health).

“Fides will be broader than just ministry. It will draw on numerous other schools and colleges at Campbell, and we will add other elective study areas as Campbell grows,” Jonas said. “Fides will be a place where high school students come and explore matters of faith and vocation. So you want to be a doctor. What does that mean for God’s calling for your life?”

Fides will be housed in the Campus Ministry office. A search for a director to lead the institute will begin this spring.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to offer another way for our university to engage with high school students as they seek to make sense of purpose and meaning in their lives,” said the Rev. Faithe Beam, dean for spiritual life and campus minister who will oversee the Fides director. “This is the work we are firmly committed to with our undergraduate students as we provide them the tools and opportunity to reflect on who they are and who God has called them to be in this world. As Lilly Endowment values greatly the development of strong Christian leaders, we believe Fides will offer an experience that will inspire students to embrace the role of leader in their community of faith and challenge them to begin thinking about their vocation through eyes of faith.”

Campbell is one of 82 schools participating in Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes 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.”

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 the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

Lilly’s $593,000 grant to Campbell is the largest humanities-related grant the university has received to date. Members of Campbell’s Lilly Grant Proposal Committee were Jonas; Beam; Barry Jones, professor of Old Testament; Adam English, chair of the Department of Religion & Philosophy; Brian Foreman, adjunct instructor in youth ministry and president of B4man Consulting; and Dawn Neighbors, former assistant vice president for corporate and foundation relations and grants management.

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 grantmaking 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.