Formation for Ministry

Date Published

January 1, 2010

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Published by Calvin Seminary

CTS Receives Grant Renewal for Facing Your Future Program

For 11 years the Facing Your Future (FYF) program at Calvin Theological Seminary has identified and engaged young people of great spiritual, intellectual, and personal promise for theological education and eventual ministry in the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). CTS gratefully announces that it has received a $350,000 Bridge Grant from the Lilly Endowment’s Theological Programs for High School Youth Supplemental Grants Initiative to supplement the generous gifts of CRC congregations and individual donors to this program.

FYF is a 22-day summer experience incorporating time spent at CTS, an off-campus excursion to expose participants to different types of ministry, and a brief wrap-up time back on campus. FYF encourages young people to consider lives of full-time ministry, shows young people the connection between real-life ministry and theological reflection, and cooperates with other CRC-related agencies in encouraging the spiritual growth of young people.

Since the program began in 1999, 383 high school students have participated in FYF. Although approximately half of that total are still in college (or even high school), 37 have gone on to seminary (26 of those have enrolled at CTS). On average, about 20 percent of participants from a given year (7-8 students) will pursue semi- nary training.

FYF has had a big impact on students in many ways. Virtually all participants report growth in their appreciation of the breadth and depth of God’s kingdom, as well as in their understanding of Christian ministry. Because of their experience in FYF, many seriously consider pursuing some form of Christian ministry.

Also, the FYF program has raised the awareness of pastors to the subject of discernment and calling to ministry, and to their role in that process with the youth in their congregations. Many pastors indicate that FYF participants return from the program with heightened spiritual aware- ness and a greater capacity and desire to lead. Some musically gifted students have become more active in using those gifts within their congregations, as well as out- side of church. Others have become more involved in spiritual leadership within their schools and churches.

Students spend the first ten days of the program at CTS exploring and reflect- ing on ministry and some of life’s biggest challenges. They are introduced to the Creation-Fall-Redemption-Recreation theme of the Bible and of Reformed theology. CTS faculty and other invited guests guide the students in searching the Bible for what it has to say about significant con- temporary issues. The schedule is full and fast-paced. It includes lectures, readings, book discussions, worship events, films, field trips, and other learning activities.

The second phase of the program is a ten-day excursion experience in which participants see firsthand the connection between theology and ministry. Students learn about urban and cross-cultural ministry in Paterson, New Jersey, or in Toronto, Ontario; or about church plant- ing in a predominantly post-Christian environment in Portland, Oregon. These sites have been selected and developed in partnership with Youth Unlimited.

The third and final phase of the pro- gram is a two-day wrap-up back on the CTS campus where students begin pro- cessing their experiences before heading home. After leaving, they enjoy a mentor- ing relationship that helps them continue reflecting on their FYF experience.

FYF comes into students’ lives at a critical time in both their spiritual development and vocational discernment. Many participants identify FYF as a watershed experience for them. One student reflected, “FYF helped me to tune in to what God was trying to tell me. With three weeks away from all the regular distractions, I had the opportunity to question, learn, and believe.” The relationships and decisions students make during the pro- gram endure well beyond the program itself. Another alum summarized the impact this way: “(FYF) is a part of my life I will never forget. I made lifelong friends, developed my relationship with God, and learned how to more deeply interact with others.”

Program Director Greg Janke says, “FYF has been a significant program at CTS because of its impact on students who will be leaders in the church. It also has increased an emphasis on discernment throughout seminary training. The energy of the high school students makes for lively discussions with CTS faculty, who are encouraged about the future of the church and its ministry leaders. It also provides ministry experience for seminarians who serve as live-in group leaders during FYF.”

The FYF program would not be possible without the ongoing support of local congregations. In addition to the three congregations who host excursion groups, other Grand Rapids-area congregations host participants for worship, provide meals, and assist in other ways. Over the 11 years of FYF, student participants have come from more than 185 congregations across the US and Canada, representing about 20 percent of all CRC congregations. Additionally, the FYF program depends upon, and receives, generous financial support from many congregations in the CRCNA. CTS is deeply grateful for the tremendous support received over the years from so many local congregations. The ongoing support of local congregations, combined with this latest gift from the Lilly Endowment, is a tremendous cause for thanksgiving.

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Global Consultation Brings Technology and Bible Study Together: Four continents, five languages, twenty people, one purpose—to spread the word about the Word

In November 2009 CTS hosted a consultation on using Bible software effectively in the classroom and in the pastorate. The ultimate goal for those who attended was that seminary students would continue to use their Bible software in the church for their personal study and sermon writing, as well as for preaching, teaching, and discipling their congregations.

Participants came from Europe, South Africa, South America, and North America—a gathering of data producers, software designers, professors, pastors, and students. One attendee, Dr. Christo van de Merwe of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, reported from his research that with the use of Libronix Bible Software, pastors retain their use of the original languages at a greater percentage than with traditional language study. Pastors who were on campus at the time of the consult confirmed that reality. Scott Greenway of Caledonia, Michigan, Jack Gray of Wright, Iowa, and Joseph Kim of Anaheim, California, spoke enthusiastically about their use of Libronix, their excitement for using its new “Version 4,” and the great benefits it has for ministry. Attendees at the consultation included representatives of the Libronix software system produced by Logos Research Systems and the German Bible Society. Professors came from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa; Mackenzie University in Brazil; Protestant Reformed and Puritan Reformed Seminaries; Calvin, Dordt, and Hope Colleges; Moody Bible Institute; and Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. Pastors from Grand Rapids and Fermont, Michigan, and Vancouver, British Columbia, joined the discussion.

The consultation also filled a growing need for conversations between professors at college and seminary levels who use Bible software in the classroom. Attendees were encouraged to rethink their teaching of biblical languages, using dialogue and community as well as technology in the process. But the group did not just talk about the ancient languages of the Bible. They considered pedagogical questions for using Bible software in the entire seminary curriculum.

CTS is a leader in the use of Bible software in the seminary curriculum. Consultation organizer and Old Testament Professor Carl J. Bosma has developed a detailed seminar-like course that teaches students how to use the Libronix program step by step; students take this course at the beginning of their first term. As a result, the I.T. department and the professors all work together with students on the same program, and students are allowed to collaborate and share resources they develop. By the time they graduate, seminarians have a personal library of notes and sermons all linked in their Libronix program to help them prepare Bible studies and sermons utilizing all their Logos resources.

A second meeting is already in the works for next November to continue the learning and the relationships that are developing. An overwhelming majority of the participants reported the consultation to be “very valuable.” Seeing a variety of views and approaches to teaching and learning was beneficial to all. Practical training gained along the way in Libronix itself was also very useful. More than that, the personal relationships that developed over the hospitality of lunches and a Brazilian barbecue renewed appreciation for God’s gifting and calling of a variety of individuals and for dialogue between them—for the purpose of encouraging the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.


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