According to Colin Kroll (’15, ’19), the concepts of faith and vocation are not mutually exclusive; in fact, in many ways, they are inextricably dependent on one another. This belief in the intersection of faith and vocation led to the creation of the Campbell Youth Theological Institute (CYTI), a two-week residential experience for high school students to explore how career and faith can work together in their own lives.
The program was officially funded in 2016 by the Lilly Endowment and the Forum for Theological Exploration, and was designed under the direction of Dr. Brian Foreman and a team of grant writers. In the summer of 2017, after years of dreaming, the first Campbell Youth Theological Institute was held.
During that first summer, and the summers to follow, students were encouraged to explore their calling and their faith through a variety of activities, including workshops with Campbell staff, service projects with community partners, and worship with other students from across the country. This engagement between CYTI and the Campbell community is, for Kroll, one of the most important parts of the program.
“As we invite Campbell University faculty, staff, and students to lead the Institute, we are seeing the practice of discernment and the value of vocation take root on campus,” Kroll says, adding that he is excited to see how CYTI’s influence will continue to grow as the program and the Campbell community continue to interact over time.
The core belief behind CYTI is that “all people are called to not only be in relationship with God, but also called to join God in what God is doing in the world.” Kroll readily admits that this is easier said than done, and that it can be difficult to discern how to align one’s individual giftings with long-term career options. However, through intentional discussion and exploration, Kroll hopes that CYTI can illustrate to participants that their participation in fields such as law, engineering, business, or medicine is “just as faithful and valid as those who are called to vocational ministry.”
This affirmation and encouragement through CYTI is continuing to make its impact on Campbell’s community as a whole. The involvement of students, faculty, and staff in the program brings new conversations regarding faith and vocation onto campus in classrooms, student organizations, and into Campbell’s culture as a whole.
Over the next five years, Kroll hopes that CYTI can achieve sustainability through the end of their grant period in order to continue reaching high school students and enriching the campus community. Additionally, the future of CYTI also includes plans to better partner with Campbell’s alumni network to introduce the program’s participants to the wide variety of Campbell alumni who are pursuing vocation in a meaningful and diverse way. CYTI thrives on community and conversation, and Kroll explains that the mentorship and participation of Campbell alumni would enrich the experiences and discussion that CYTI offers its participants.
From the first program almost two years ago, to the future that awaits CYTI, the top priority of the institute is clear: the importance of encouraging young people in pursuing their goals in a way that uses their talents to make the world a better place. A priority that Kroll believes works in tandem with Campbell’s own mission to lead through service to others.
“We want them to know,” Kroll concludes, “that their thoughtful approaches in their work to cultivate peace, justice, and health are just as edifying and essential to the kingdom of God.”