Phyllis Fox named Program Director for new program
JOHNSON CITY, TN (December 13, 2001)-High school students will be encouraged to consider the implications of the Christian faith on their lives as part of a new partnership between Emmanuel School of Religion and Milligan College. The program, “A Partnership for Youth in Ministry,” is funded through a $794,874 grant from the Lilly Endowment of Indiana.
High school youth will be invited to Milligan and Emmanuel’s campuses to participate in intensive youth summits, theology workshops, weekend retreats, a summer workshop, and a mentoring program. Each of the venues provides opportunities for the youth to explore questions about their faith and its relevance to their lives and vocational calling.
“The program is designed to encourage a new generation of young people to explore their vocational aspirations in the context of spiritual and theological discernment, and to consider Christian ministry among their options,” said Dr. Robert Wetzel, president of Emmanuel School of Religion. “Ultimately, we want to encourage a new generation to enter college and seminary with a goal to enter full-time ministry of some kind.”
The grant project called for a partnership between Emmanuel, a graduate-level seminary, and Milligan, a Christian liberal arts college. The schools are two separate institutions but share a common heritage and are located across the street from each other. Faculty members frequently work together on projects and the two schools share many common alumni and board members.
“Youth are at a unique level of moral and faith development,” explained Dr. Eleanor Daniel, a nationally known specialist in Christian education, who serves as dean and professor of Christian education at Emmanuel. “The teenage years are a prime time to begin critical reflective theological thinking that shapes their choices and faith for the future. The Emmanuel and Milligan partnership will encourage these teens to understand Christianity in its historical context and to see the relevance and value of Christianity in relation to the concerns and challenges facing our culture.”
The program comes none too soon. Several recent studies report that the number of ministers and theological school graduates under age 30 is declining. An article in the April 2001 issue of Congregations reported that less than 10 percent of ministers in churches were younger than 35 years of age, about a 15 percent decline since the mid-1970s. Similarly, the Accrediting Association of Theological Schools found that of 3,964 graduating students at 103 seminaries, only 30 percent were under age 30.
Young people should not think that ministry is limited to preaching or being a missionary, pointed out Milligan President Don Jeanes.
“All Christians are, in a sense, ministers and leaders in Christian service. Every Christian has something to offer God and can use that gift in various professions to do God’s work, whether as a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a counselor, or a full-time minister or missionary,” said Milligan President Don Jeanes. “That is at the core of what we believe and teach at both Milligan and Emmanuel.”
Together, Milligan and ESR have more than 1,000 alumni working virtually around the world in full-time ministry as vocational ministers, lay ministers, missionaries and leaders in para-church organizations. Thousands more are Christian leaders in business, education, technology and healthcare.
“We want young people, and their parents and youth leaders, to realize that it is Christian leaders in various vocations-not just our missionaries and pastors-that will make a difference in this world. Church organizations and Christian colleges need to examine themselves and see if they are, in fact, presenting ministry as a desirable call to young people. That’s the goal of this program,” said Jeanes.
The programs will reach up to 1,000 students a year from an interdenominational audience.
School leaders announced yesterday that Phyllis Fox of Johnson City has been named program director for the new initiative, which will begin early in 2002.
Fox will be instrumental in the development of curriculum for the program. She will utilize personnel from both institutions to participate in the program, from development to implementation and will call on a leadership network of youth experts for resources and ideas.
“I cannot imagine a more challenging and exciting opportunity than serving as the director for the Partnership for Youth in Ministry. It is a blessing and honor to work together with the administration and faculty of both institutions that I deeply respect. I look forward to developing this program and the potential to impact many young lives and the church,” said Fox, who will begin her role as director in January.
Fox is the former president of Interim Personnel in Johnson City, which she co-owned and operated from 1991 to 1999. She previously has been a trade show sales and marketing trainer for a Florida firm serving Fortune 500 companies, as well as trade show manager for Texas Instruments. In 2000, Fox established a human resource department for Christian Medical and Dental Association in Bristol.
“The Lilly Endowment has once again proven to be on the cutting edge of our society by recognizing the need to encourage individuals to consider the ministry as a full time career,” said Fox, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Steed College and is currently pursuing a master of arts degree from Emmanuel School of Religion. “This is an exciting opportunity for both Emmanuel and Milligan to work together for their mutual goal of training leaders for the church.”
The grant is one of 53 grants and $14.3 million that Lilly Endowment Inc. recently awarded to theological seminaries across the country to develop and enhance their theological programs for high school youth. Other schools receiving similar grants include Concordia Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Calvin Theological Seminary, and Duke University.
“We think the ministry should certainly be presented to young people as a fascinating and rewarding profession that offers the intellectual challenges and sense of gratification that the brightest young people want from their lives,” said Craig Dykstra, Endowment vice president for religion. “We are finding that this age group is more than willing to explore what they believe as they explore what they want to do with their lives.”