January 18, 2013
Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to assist in the coordination of The Theological Programs for High School Youth Initiative.
Since 1992, the Endowment has invested more than $90 million through grants to 48 seminaries across the United States and Canada to establish theology programs for high school youth. Two essential purposes guide the Endowment's youth initiative: to stimulate and foster an excitement about theological learning and inquiry, and to identify and encourage talented Christian youth to consider vocations in the ministry.
"Youth are not only the future of the church, they are the hope of our present. Enhancing the vibrancy of communities of faith is the mission of the School of Theology∙Seminary, and we are grateful to the Endowment to have this opportunity to join them in this work," said William Cahoy, dean of Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary.
The primary aim of this grant is to provide ongoing support for the 39 remaining youth theology programs by establishing and sustaining a network composed of youth theology program leaders. A secondary aim is to capture and share key insights from the youth theology programs with wider audiences.
"I am honored to coordinate this project," said Jeffrey Kaster, director of Saint John's School of Theology•Seminary's Youth in Theology and Ministry (YTM) program. "I'm very excited to be gathering with other program leaders, learning from them and sharing the wealth of information these programs have gained about vocational discernment and engaging youth in theology over the last 20 years."
Kaster has directed the YTM program since its inception in 2000. During that time, YTM has hosted 388 high school students for its summer program, employed 85 counselors and trained 99 adult mentors. The YTM program's research shows that 20 percent of its youth participants go on to major or minor in theology in college. Over 90 percent consider vocations in church-related ministry, 78 percent of which are considering religious life or ordination.
"These theological programs for high school youth are creating some of the most innovative efforts in Christian formation. It will be a pleasure to share insights from these important programs about young people, vocations and theology," Kaster said.