Calvin College Receives $500K from Lilly Endowment

Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., will receive nearly $500k from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment as part of Lilly's Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation.

The new grant, which will begin in January 2007, will sustain the Lilly Vocation Project at Calvin College until the end of Calvin's fiscal year in 2009 and was one of 88 totaling $176.8 million that Lilly gave out in 2000, 2001 and 2002 to colleges and universities across the country, according to the Christian Reformed liberal arts college. In 2001, Calvin received a $2 million grant from Lilly that began the program and will carry it through 2006.

"It's a very welcomed support of what we're doing at Calvin," said Shirley Roels, director of the Lilly Vocation Project, in an announcement made by the college last Wednesday. "We are addressing some very important issues and this money will help us continue what we're doing, refine some things and expand our programs."

According to Calvin, the new money will help Calvin continue its efforts to build an understanding of and commitment to vocation for all college students and to strengthen the college's work with students interested in church-related ministry.

"All denominations are facing ministry leadership shortages - all denominations,” said Roels. “Obviously this has a pretty significant impact on the future of the Christian church in North America. The challenges in terms of the needs of the church are not going to go away. What we are doing at Calvin is helping to address that challenge."

The project director noted that that a student survey in 2001, prior to Calvin's first grant of $2 million from Lilly to begin the Vocation Project, showed that just three percent of Calvin's students were seriously considering becoming pastors. A recent survey, after four years of Lilly Vocation Project efforts, saw a doubling of that number as seven percent of students were seriously considering entering the ministry.

"As the program continues, we hope the number will climb even higher," she stated.

But, Roels continued, the project is about much more than grooming the next generation of ministers. On campus, the Lilly Vocation Project helps students think through age-old questions, regardless of their future career path, she stated.

"Students will always ask ‘Who am I?’ ‘Whose am I?’ and ‘What do I do with that?’" said Roels. "We hope to get professors and students thinking more deeply about God's calling for all of life."

According to Calvin, the Lilly Vocation Project has allowed the college to create a variety of initiatives for students to help them explore vocation.