A grant to Hope College from Lilly Endowment Inc. is supporting planning for a program that would make the college a resource for area churches interested in helping their members explore vocation — a sense of calling — in their lives.

The $50,000 grant through Lilly Endowment’s “Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose Initiative” will provide funding for the college to work this summer with area churches to see how best Hope can assist in ministry that encourages exploration of calling and to craft a proposal for an implementation grant that if awarded would provide support for up to five years.

“Hope has a long history of working with students to help them discern their postgraduate vocational aspirations and to succeed in achieving them,” said Dr. Jonathan Hagood, who is the project leader as well as an associate professor of history and director of the college’s Senior Seminar program.  “We hope to place the college’s existing resources and expertise in the areas of ministry, vocational discernment and innovation in the service of congregations to engage their members in the exploration of their particular callings.”

Lilly Endowment’s Calling Initiative seeks to help church-related colleges and universities, theological schools and other faith-based organizations to establish innovation hubs that will assist congregations in designing and launching new or enhancing existing ministries to help Christians discover and claim how God is calling them to lead lives of meaning and purpose.  The innovation hubs will help congregations draw on the wisdom of sacred scripture and their theological traditions to develop or strengthen ministries that use educational experiences, religious practices, and worship and liturgies to engage Christians in the exploration of their particular callings.

Hope programs that will be involved in the planning process include Campus Ministries, the Center for Ministry Studies and the Center for Leadership.  The content of the implementation grant proposal will stem from the summer’s interviews and meetings with representatives of area churches.

The college is already a hub for vocational exploration beyond the members of the Hope community.  This summer, the college will become home to the national office of the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), of which Dr. David S. Cunningham of Hope’s religion faculty was named director in March.  Hope is a founding member of the organization, which was launched in 2009 and is an initiative of the Council of Independent Colleges and Lilly Endowment.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.  The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.  Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.  It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

Previous grant support to Hope by Lilly Endowment includes a $2 million grant in 2002 through the initiative to support “Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation” at colleges and universities.  Hope established the CrossRoads Program, which began in 2003.  Through a variety of initiatives it encourages students to explore intersections of faith, career, calling and life. Many of the CrossRoads initiatives are now coordinated through the college’s Center for Ministry Studies.  In 2015, Hope received a $500,000 grant through Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative to establish Awakening, a summer institute designed to deepen high school students’ faith formation and understanding of Christian theology, and to help them explore the moral dimension of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.