‘Making Connections’ Already Making a Difference

Post a Comment » Written on May 16th, 2006     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (May 16, 2006) – The high school students who had been paired with their youth pastors had come from as far away as Eagle River, Alaska, and Clay, New York, to deepen their faith in fresh ways at North Park Theological Seminary during the first offering of Youth Nexus.

Missionary Paul Deneui, who teaches at the seminary, traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to help a pastor organize a funeral for a Hmong member of her congregation. And, North Park University students have availed themselves of spiritual direction, many of them for the first time.

These and other examples help illustrate how the first year of a $2 million Lilly Endowment grant has made a significant difference in connecting the seminary with Covenanters in a variety of ways, says Mary Miller, director of the Making Connections Initiative that is funded by the grant.

The Indianapolis-based endowment awarded the grant in 2004 to help address a number of concerns, including declining numbers of young people entering the ministry, the dropout rate among young ministers, and the often felt “isolation” of practicing pastors.

Programs directed by University Ministries on the North Park campus have greatly expanded as the result of the hiring of seminary interns with grant funds, notes Miller. This has included the number of small groups available to undergraduates as well as more personal ministry initiatives.

The number of university students using spiritual directors funded by the grant comes as a pleasant surprise to Miller, who says, “it’s just amazing how many students wanted to do this.”

Youth Nexus is a weeklong institute that pairs youth pastors with their students for worship, theological reflection, learning projects, and community building recreational activities. The second year already is booked.

The grant also is funding a professors-in-residence program, which allows seminary faculty to visit local churches and meet with members of the congregations to identify ways in which the school can better respond to their needs. A program that enables pastors and superintendents to spend time at the seminary to enhance their spiritual development also is funded through the grant. While at the seminary, they also meet with current students and sometimes preach in the chapel, Miller says.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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