A Brief History
In the spring of 1998, Lilly Endowment Inc. issued requests for proposals across North America in a new grant stream called Theological Programs for High School Youth.
At that time, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia prepared, and was awarded, a planning grant to begin to explore options for theological and vocational encounters with high school youth. Several interesting directions were considered, with a two-week residential academy and week-long conversations at outdoor ministry sites emerging as the most promising.
In the fall of 1999, LTSP received a first implementation grant of $502,000 for these two activities under the name Theological Education with Youth (TEY). Rev. Bill Bixby began serving as full-time Director in January of 2000, and Ms. Candace Hill began serving as Program Coordinator in June of 2000.
The first grant has enabled TEY to create the Summer Theological Academy (STA) and Counselor-in-Training (CIT) ministries, now completing their third year. This original grant called for single gatherings with CITs at two outdoor ministries—Bear Creek Camp and Conference Center and Calumet Lutheran Camp and Conference Center. By 2002, TEY has added two new camps—Cross Roads Outdoor Ministries and Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center—and increased the number of gatherings to include teen leadership groups other than CITs. In all, TEY’s total youth participation increased substantially across each of the three years: from 48 in summer of 2000, to 93 in 2001, to 116 in 2002.
In the spring of 2001, conversations concerning the possibility of partnership in this Lilly grant stream led to the submission of a planning grant by the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. That grant intended to explore two new ministries, focusing on ninth and tenth grade youth, AND to explore a long-term partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. In September of 2001, that planning grant was awarded to LTSG, at the same time that a full renewal grant for three more years of ministry (2003-2005) was approved for LTSP.
Pilot offerings were held for the Affirmation of Baptism Festival and Crossroads Event, and staff collaborations were begun. Beginning in February, 2002, a grant proposal from LTSG—a proposal that was fully coordinated with the existing renewal grant to LTSP—was developed, encompassing four ministries with theological intensity and vocational themes. That grant was successful, and in June of 2002, Theological Education with Youth, a joint initiative of Lutheran seminaries, was notified of an award to LTSG of $592,000.
From 2003 through 2006 the four programs of TEY brought nearly 780 youth into the conversation about what God is up to in the world and where their gifts and passions might move the Church. In the spring of 2007 Rev. Bill Bixby accepted a call to the ELCA offices in Chicago to share his joy and passion for youth with the larger church. That summer Chandler Carriker was brought on as full time Director for TEY. Chandler looks forward to carrying on this transforming ministry, and seeing it continue to grow as a ministry where youth are challenged and strengthened in their discipleship and the Church is strengthened and challenge by its youth.