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Program launched to help teens figure out their future

Scholarships dedicated in honor of local individuals

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, TN (August 27, 2002) — What to do with one’s future and how to make a difference in the world are two big questions that most teens face today. That’s why Milligan College and Emmanuel School of Religion have partnered to launch a special program to help teens figure it all out.

Leaders at both institutions announced this morning that their new Youth in Ministry (YiM) program is designed to help teens in the Tri-Cities region and throughout the United States to determine what their vocational calling is and decide how they can best minister as a Christian in that career, whatever it may be. The program offers youth summits, workshops and conferences that address the importance of having a vision for your life.

“Today’s youth have lots of questions about their future and about how they can make a difference in this world,” said Phyllis Fox, YiM program director. “Many of them don’t yet know what career they will pursue, or what God is calling them to do, or whether God might even be calling them into full time ministry. The YiM program is designed to help teens find those answers.”

The YiM program is a partnership between Milligan College, a private Christian college, and Emmanuel School of Religion, a graduate seminary, both located near Johnson City, Tenn. 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. The two institutions received a $800,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation of Indiana in October 2001 to fund the YiM program.

The grant is one of 53 grants and $14.3 million that Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded last year 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.”

Milligan president Don Jeanes explained that the purpose of Youth in Ministry is to “encourage a new generation of young people to explore the relevance and value of Christianity and to think about their Christian faith in relation to the concerns and challenges facing our culture.”

“We want to especially challenge young people as they are beginning to explore their vocational desires to consider Christian ministry – in all its forms – among their options,” said Jeanes.

Emmanuel School of Religion president Bob Wetzel explained that both Milligan and Emmanuel view ministry as a calling for all Christians.

“Our two institutions have long shared a vision of preparing students for ministry, as traditional ministers, pastors, missionaries, and clergy, as well as physicians, educators, lawyers, business people, counselors, artists, and so on. That is a uniqueness of both of our institutions – preparing Christian leaders in various vocations,” said Wetzel.

Wetzel explained that many media sources are currently reporting a shortage of people entering the ministry, specifically clergy positions. A December 20, 2001, USA Today article titled, “Clergy shortage requires youth,” stated that in many mainline Protestant denominations the number of ordained clergy under age 35 is less than five percent.

Another study by the Accrediting Association of Theological Schools (ATS) found that of almost 3,000 graduating students at 103 seminaries, only 30 percent were under the age of 30. The surveys also revealed that a significant number of students entering theological school actually began to think of ministry as a vocation during high school.

“The key, then, is to find ways to present this possibility to high school students at the time when they are considering their future vocational choices. It is believed that this is a call for the church, church organizations, and Christian colleges and seminaries to look at ourselves to see if we are, in fact, presenting ministry as a desirable call to young people. Hence the partnership between Milligan and Emmanuel, and the resulting YiM program,” said Wetzel.

Young people should not think that ministry is limited to preaching or being a missionary, pointed out 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 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 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.

Jeanes said that both institutions have spent the past nine months planning and creating the YiM program. Phyllis Fox, Johnson City, was called as program director in January. In addition to a steering team of leaders at both institutions, local youth ministers and professors were recruited to help write and design the program curriculum. Fox said that the curriculum team and creative teams consisted of individuals such as Curtis Booher, student minister at Crossroads Christian Church, Johnson City; Emmanuel professors Bob Hull, Eleanor Daniel, and Jack Holland; and Milligan professors Jeff Miller and Chris Heard, in addition to several Emmanuel students and graduates.

“These individuals and many more have been instrumental in developing the YiM program and bringing it to this launching point today,” said Fox, former co-owner of Interim Personnel, Johnson City.

The YiM curriculum consists of several half-day youth summits throughout the year, whole-day workshops, and weeklong summer conferences. The programs range from quick overviews to in-depth explorations for high school juniors and seniors to “get the big picture and a personalized vision for their lives,” said Fox.

Fox explained that YiM has also already begun to build partnerships and relationships with other key programs, churches and organizations, both locally and nationally. By offering a YiM class at four individual Christ in Youth (CIY) conferences at Milligan this summer, the YiM message has already reached over 1,000 teens, said Fox. A partnership between YiM and Ground Zero ministries in Johnson City will present the See You at the Pole celebration rally on Saturday, Sept. 14, featuring former local youth minister Kenny White of Atlanta, Ga.

And on Sept. 7, YiM has partnered with Milligan and WCQR to offer SONFEST, an all-day community back-to-school festival on Milligan’s campus, featuring food vendors, music, and games for youth groups and families. The event is to raise community awareness for service projects such as Good Samaritan Ministries.

“We are thrilled with the Youth in Ministry program and the opportunity to reach today’s youth,” said Fox. “With our current plans, the YiM program and message have the potential to be heard by more than 15,000 teens each year.”

Scholarships dedicated in honor of local individuals

Five scholarships to help teens attend YiM programs were also announced at Tuesday’s press conference and dedicated in honor of local individuals.

“These individuals’ lives and careers exemplify the YiM mission. They long ago discerned what God was calling them to, and they have each used that career and vocation as a ministry to reach out and help others as servant leaders,” said Fox.

The Bob Robinson YiM Scholarship for Ministry will help teens who are considering careers in the ministry to attend YiM programs. Robinson has been the minister at Avoca Christian Church in Bristol, Tenn., for almost 39 years. He is active in the community as a chaplain at Bristol Regional Medical Center and the Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Mark Webb YiM Scholarship in Healthcare will help teens interested in healthcare careers. Webb has been in private dental practice since 1976 and has led a medical missions team to central Mexico for three years.

The Lynnis Hornsby YiM Scholarship in Community Service will help teens considering careers in community service. Hornsby is director of volunteer services at Johnson City Medical Center and has been active as a volunteer herself in numerous community organizations.

The Joe Gregory YiM Scholarship in Business will help teens interested in business professions. Gregory is vice chairman of the board at King Pharmaceuticals. His foresight and Christian business ethics have made him an influential leader both in the industry and in the region as an avid supporter of local service organizations.

The John O’Dell YiM Scholarship in Education is available for teens interested in education careers. O’Dell is director of schools for Sullivan County. He has played an influential role in the education of the region’s youth and is active on numerous educational and community boards.

The Gene Wilkes YiM Scholarship for Servant Leadership will help teens who are committed to servant leadership, whatever their vocational calling might be, explained Jeanes. Wilkes is a minister in Plano, Texas, and is an author and public speaker on the topics of servant leadership. Wilkes was the keynote speaker at Milligan’s 11 a.m. convocation service on Tuesday.

“By establishing scholarships in honor of these individuals, many youth will have the opportunity to see first-hand testimonies of individuals who are living out their faith in their day-to-day vocational lives,” said Jeanes. “Our hope is that teens from around the Tri-Cities region and nation will follow suit.”

More information about the Youth in Ministry program and these scholarships is available at www.youthinministry.org. Or call or e-mail Phyllis Fox, YiM director, at 423.975.8021 or pfox@milligan.edu.



MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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