WBU receives $600,000 grant for youth theology program

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University has received a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative to help fund Kaleo, a program designed to foster Christian leadership among high school juniors and seniors.

Designed by Wayland’s Associate Dean of the School of Religion and Philosophy, Dr. Clinton Lowin, the Kaleo program’s goal is to “transform lives through discovery, discernment and affirmation of God’s call for Christian leadership in the lives of junior and senior high school students.”

“This grant is one of the most exciting things that has happened to the School of Religion and Philosophy in our history,” said Dr. Paul Sadler, Dean of the School of Religion. “It has tremendous potential to influence the lives of Christian young people, and it also gives churches and Wayland an opportunity to form very productive partnerships.”

Lowin said he had been in discussion with leaders at the Baptist General Convention of Texas and other organizations who expressed a growing interest in trying to find a way to help more students consider the call of God on their lives, not only preparing them for service to the church, but also within their communities.

Funded by the Lilly Endowment grant, Lowin was able to design an immersion program through which Wayland partners with local churches, Camp Eagle and Student International to provide students with an experience that focuses on the heart, head and hands to foster the call to kingdom work.

High school juniors and seniors will enter into a year-long mentorship program with a pastor or youth pastor from their church. As part of the experience, the mentees will be sent to Wayland for a month-long immersion that will focus on three phases of development.

The wilderness phase will focus on separation where students will be encouraged to find their true leadership calling. The Camp Eagle Wilderness program near Glorietta, N.M. is designed to create experiences that lead to an examined life. Students will hike, backpack and live in tents, away from modern conveniences. At the end of the week, they will be debriefed to help them understand what they have learned.

The second phase will take place on the Wayland campus as they spend a week in the classroom, taking Biblical and theological study modules led by Wayland professors. The week will also include ministry projects with local churches.

The final phase includes a partnership with Student International in a two-week overseas mission trip. Student International focuses on occupational missions, a point of interest for many young people looking to be missional in their approach to everyday life.

“It’s the demonstration of the Gospel, and when given a chance, the opportunity to articulate the Gospel,” Lowin said of Student International’s approach.

Once the immersion experience is complete, students will return to their churches and mentors for another eight months of studying and learning, at which time they will be instructed and held accountable by Kaleo for implementing some sort of Christian ministry or channel of influence within their church or community. Lowin said they will also maintain contact with the other students and mentors in their Kaleo group through Blackboard, Wayland’s online teaching platform. Group members will be able to share insight about their projects and leadership opportunities through a protected, online chatroom.

“We are very appreciative of the Lilly Endowment for providing this grant and for Dr. Lowin who deserves a great deal of credit for his determined effort to see this come to fruition,” Sadler said.

Lilly Endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants through this initiative. Wayland is one of 82 private four-year colleges and universities participating in the initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding Christian traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.

The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically-minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.

Dr. Lowin, who has already been in contact with some churches in Ohio, said the Kaleo program is open to students who churches feel have great potential for Christian leadership. Each group will be capped at 30 students, and is open to student and churches through the United States. Recruitment of students has already begun and the first immersion experience will take place June 10 through July 11 of 2016.

Any church interested in sponsoring a student may contact Dr. Lowin at 806-291-1165 or by email at lowinc@wbu.edu.