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Work With Purpose Initiative Receives Additional Grant

Christianity Today’s Andy Crouch speaks at a Work with Purpose pastors’ seminar in December 2015. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Justin Irving)

Bethel Seminary is celebrating the announcement of another significant grant to transform the community’s understanding of faith, work, and economics. The Kern Family Foundation will give $217,920 to Seminary's Work with Purpose program for continued and expanded work in 2017.

The grant is part of the foundation’s national focus on establishing the deeper meaning of people’s vocational work, which occupies most of our waking hours. “Work, though at times challenging, can be a source of dignity, character formation, and fulfillment. Work is also an effective, if often overlooked, way to contribute to the well-being of others,” says the organization’s website. The Faith, Work, and Economics Program partners with dozens of organizations that recognize the economy as a “moral system in which people exchange their work” and “promote free enterprise grounded in moral character as an effective way to instill dignity, lift people out of poverty, and produce human flourishing.”

Bethel’s own Work with Purpose Initiative—founded in 2013—has created tangible resources and regular local touchpoints focused on these themes. Conversations about vocation have become an important part of the Bethel University ethos just as they have become more essential to ministry nationwide.

“The Kern Family Foundation cares deeply about pastors and seminary students understanding the integration of faith, work, and economics,” says Work with Purpose Director Justin Irving. “We want to come alongside pastors and seminary students so that leaders in the church are empowering the people of God to live out their calling in diverse sectors. We truly believe this is integral to the Gospel—not additive.”

Work with Purpose Manager Tessa Pinkstaff adds that leveraging the position of pastors and leaders allows for an even greater impact. “We’re ‘equipping equippers’ and encouraging influencers to affirm people’s calling,” says Pinkstaff. “This taps into something really intrinsic—people want to know that what they’re doing matters.”

Vice President and Dean of Bethel Seminary David Clark says that Work with Purpose programming echoes an essential part of the seminary’s mission, which is to equip ministry leaders to foster meaningful discussion around calling—and to recognize that vocation can and should be kingdom-centered. "The Bible, in Revelation 21:1, says that God is at work bringing about a new heavens and a new earth,” says Clark. “Our personal salvation—by which we become citizens of the kingdom—is part of that. So is all our work through which we serve as ambassadors of the kingdom. It's exciting and motivating to understand that all our work, paid or not, can contribute not only to our own personal discipleship but also to God's redemptive work."

Providing an opportunity for seminary students to grapple with the topics of calling and vocation—including how they will position them to their congregations and networks—is essential in today’s society and core to the Bethel Seminary experience. Work with Purpose has also created an important external touchpoint, a venue through which Bethel Seminary can equip and support the local church with relevant teaching and resources.

"We at Bethel Seminary are very grateful for consistent Kern Family Foundation support for the Work with Purpose Initiative, which is transforming the church's vision for calling, discipleship, work, and ministry,” Clark says.

This year’s grant follows three other grants from the Kern Family Foundation, including an initial announcement of $190,000 in funding to launch the initiative in 2013, a second grant for year two, and an additional $333,347 for programming in 2016. Whereas previous Work with Purpose grants have established regular programming, this year’s grant will deepen community engagement with and extend the impact of existing offerings.

A March 2017 St. Paul event will feature 2015 Seminary Alumna of the Year Kara Powell speaking from her new book, Growing Young. An April luncheon will feature author and teacher Amy Sherman, and an ongoing “colloquy” topical study group will be continued for both the Bethel Seminary St. Paul and San Diego communities. Additional offerings will include fall kickoff events for seminary students; themed chapel talks and faculty-staff retreats; curricular integration of seminary courses; expanded marketing and long-term sustainability plans; and deepened collaboration with Converge districts, the Made to Flourish pastors’ network, and departments across the university.

Find out more about the Work with Purpose Initiative and upcoming events

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