posted June 3, 2009

Student Receives Fellowship to Explore Ministry

Hope College senior Jeffrey R. Skaff of Flint has been selected to receive a 2009 Fund for Theological Education (FTE) Undergraduate Fellowship.

FTE Undergraduate Fellowships recognize students who have gifts for leadership and are exploring the possibility of ministry as a vocation. As an FTE Undergraduate Fellow, Skaff will receive $2,000 for tuition, other educational expenses or a self-designed experience related to the exploration of ministry. He will also attend the 2009 FTE Conference on Excellence in Ministry, "Becoming Rich toward God: Pastoral Leadership and Economic Justice," which will run Wednesday-Sunday, June 17-21, at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va.

FTE Undergraduate Fellows are selected competitively from a pool of applicants from across the U.S. and Canada.  They must be nominated by a professor, school administrator, pastor or campus minister; hold a minimum 3.0 grade point average; have an interest in exploring ministry as a vocation; and demonstrate leadership in a church or school community.

Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson of the Hope faculty, who is associate director of the CrossRoads Project, director of studies in ministry and assistant professor of political science, nominated Skaff for the fellowship award, which is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.

Skaff is majoring in religion, and is involved in the college's Lilly Scholars program for students considering seminary, the Pew Society focused on presenting university-level teaching as an avenue to Christian service, the Pre-Seminary Society and the religion departmental club.  His activities have also included the student-organized Dance Marathon fund-raiser for Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and serving as a volunteer tutor with the Children's After School Achievement (CASA) program.

He is a 2006 graduate of Carman-Ainsworth High School.  He is the son of Richard and Kimberly Skaff of Flint.

The 2009 FTE Undergraduate Fellows were chosen by a national committee of theological educators and church leaders. FTE awards the fellowships to increase the number of highly capable young people exploring or preparing for ordained ministry as a profession. Fewer than seven percent of clergy in most denominations today are under age 35, and interest among seminary students in congregational ministry has declined over the past five years.

"In today's economy, the need to support young people who aspire to serve the church and the common good is an essential investment," said the Rev. Ellen Echols Purdum, director of FTE Ministry Fellowships. "Congregations and entire communities need the intellect, leadership gifts and compassion that these candidates will bring to local challenges, spiritual, social and economic."

The Fund for Theological Education is an ecumenical advocate for excellence and diversity in pastoral ministry and theological scholarship. It awards $1.5 million in fellowships to gifted young people from all denominations and racial/ethnic backgrounds. Since 1954, FTE has awarded nearly 6,000 fellowships in partnership with those committed to the future of quality leadership for the church.  More information about FTE fellowships may be obtained at www.thefund.org.