Published on January 4, 2018 by William Nunnelley  
Samford Center for Congregational Resources

Samford University’s Center for Congregational Resources (CCR) has received a $1.5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. to develop a plan to help congregations and their participants "discover and claim their Christian callings," said CCR director Michael K. Wilson.

Since its establishment in 2003, the CCR has provided sabbatical leaves and peer learning opportunities for pastoral leaders and consultative services and resource strategists for congregations. 

Now, the center wants to broaden its mission to "help churches better respond to those in their congregations facing career transitions" and to "help their young people explore their callings and pursue forms of work and community life that help them live with joy and purpose," said Wilson.

To accomplish this, the CCR will develop an "innovation hub" that will recruit and resource 24 congregations from a variety of denominations "to design or strengthen ministries that help members explore and express their callings," said Wilson.

Sixteen congregations will be a part of  the first group of learning communities. These congregations will be organized into four peer learning groups, each representing a particular faith tradition. These groups are intended to create an environment for sharing common resources on Scripture, faith tradition and liturgy. They will also learn to identify and interpret "individual and corporate calling and giftedness," said Wilson. "The concept of calling applies to both individuals as well as congregations. What might be a congregation’s calling? What resources could be used by each to explore this important question?"

These congregations will also be eligible to receive grant funding for use in support of their work and to implement initiatives they develop for use with their congregations.

Later, with assistance from Samford’s Center for Worship and the Arts, the CCR will recruit eight additional congregations to develop strategies and resources that focus on Christian calling and giftedness among youth.

"One of Samford’s distinctives is to help students think of their lives and careers in terms of calling," said Wilson. "A college degree can get them a job, but something more is needed to make life purposeful and meaningful. These days, more and more adults are experiencing a longing for something their well-paying jobs do not provide. A meaningful life is about more than a good job."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.