Lubbock Christian University

What is the Vocati Institute?

Lubbock Christian University is proud to announce the establishment of the Vocati Institute: a Missional Youth Theology Institute made possible by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The Vocati Institute will bring together an interdisciplinary group of experienced Christian leaders with high-school aged men and women to inform, prepare, and encourage them for lifetimes of theological exploration, spiritual discernment, and faithful engagement in their churches and communities. Vocati aims to create spaces where young people can go to cultivate their intellectual curiosity, explore deeper questions about God and faith, and make sense of their place and purpose in an increasingly complex, global world.

The Vocati team believes that every high school student wrestle with deep questions of theology. For this reason, we call all of our Vocati students “scholars” and each scholar must be nominated by a church mentor or leader. The nomination process confirms both for Vocati and the student that their spiritual mentor sees in them a readiness to engage in a theological rich discussion.

The Vocati Institute is a year-long program distributed into two components. The first component will occur towards the end of the summer when students attend a weeklong residency. The residency offers the students an intentional community of spiritual formation in which the group moves through a process of theological orientation, creativity, and embodiment. After the weeklong residency, the scholars develop a missional practice in which they discern God’s activity in their contexts and develop a theological norm that they will then embody as they live more intentionally into their context. The missional practice enables students to build upon their intensive experience with ongoing support, guidance, and connections with the Institute and the students’ congregational nominating sponsor. Scholars who complete the program receive a $1000 scholarship to LCU!


Important Dates

Vocati 2023

  • March 1 - Vocati accepting applications
  • June 1 - Notification of acceptance begins
  • June 15 - All forms are due
  • July 23 – 28 Vocati Residency, White River Youth Camp, Crosbyton, TX
    • Youth and Family Ministers interested in attending Vocati as a “Guest for a Day” should contact for further information.

Support the Vocati Institute

Due to the generosity of the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and Alfred and Patricia Smith, the Vocati Institute has a foundation for sustainability. However, it is necessary that the Vocati Institute seek additional partners to journey with us in the future. When you make a gift of any size you are contributing to the formation of young people for lives of Christian leadership in the church and throughout the world. We are grateful for your partnership and participation in the formation of the emerging generation of Christian leaders.

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Vocati Outcomes

We are grateful to share the cumulative data from Vocati suggests students who participate in the program advance in character and moral development above the national norms.  Vocati scholars report significantly greater participation in spiritually formative habits because of the Vocati Institute experience.   Research on program outcomes is ongoing.   We are grateful for the families and students who participate in the research aspect of the program.  Doing so allows us to share what we are learning with youth ministry programs worldwide.


Long, J. & Smith, J. (2021).  Impact of a Youth Theology Institute on Adolescent Moral Development and Spiritual Development.  Journal of Youth Ministry, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 53 – 94.


Smith, J. & Long, J. “An Ecclesiology of Adolescent Spiritual Discernment: Utilizing Richard Osmer’s Approach to Practical Theology to Help High School Students Develop a Missional Practice for Lubbock Christian University’s Vocati Program.”  Research Paper.  Virtual Presentation, International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry, January 2022.

Smith, J. & Long, J. “An Ecclesiology of Adolescent Spiritual Discernment: Utilizing Richard Osmer’s Approach to Practical Theology to Help High School Students Develop a Missional Practice for Lubbock Christian University’s Vocati Program.” Virtual Presentation of Invited Paper, Princeton Theological Seminary, April 2021.

Long, J.D., Bonner, S., Cimino, H., Guinn, A. & Brown, L.  “Impact of a Youth Theological Institute on Moral Development: Findings from Vocati Cohort 2.  Oral presentation.  Sigma Theta Tau International, Research Congress, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, July 25-29, 2019.

Long, J. D., Bonner, S., Silva, S., & Cimino, H. “Adolescent Moral Development: Effectiveness of Engaging Youth in the Critical Appraisal of Theological Content.” Oral presentation, Sigma Theta Tau International, Research Congress, Melbourne, Australia, July 18-23, 2018.

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Youth Theology Network

Vocati is proud to be apart of the Youth Theology Network

We're reaching more students than ever! We are so proud to be part of this network of over 100 colleges, universities, seminaries and schools of theology

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents/Guardians

The residency portion of the Institute will be held at White River Youth Camp in Crosbyton, TX. Once back from the residency, students begin the missional-living online portion, which takes place twice a month on Zoom. Students will have access to our online learning management system, Moodle, where they will continue to build the connections established during the residency.

Due to a generous grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. and a donation from our wonderful partners Al and Pat Smith, there is a minimum charge of $125. Transportation costs incurred during travel to and from White River Youth Camp are to be paid by the applicant. Costs may be incurred by the student as they implement their missional practice for basic supplies, or for snack food while traveling. Also, thanks to the LCU Bible Department, scholarships are available if money is an issue.

Your child’s safety and security is of the utmost concern to the administration and staff of the Vocati Institute. We have developed specific and detailed policies to ensure that your children remain safe while they are under our care. Emergency services are located close to the retreat facility. If treatment at either the doctor's office or emergency room is required, your health insurance will be the primary insurance. If a situation arises concerning the treatment of your child, you will be notified immediately by the medical staff and/or a year-round staff member. Further details can be found in the release portion of the student’s application.

Due to the programmatic design of the Institute, students will be heavily engaged with LCU faculty and current university students. The content of the Institute is designed to immerse your student into rich and deep theological exploration, spiritual discernment, and thoughtful engagement. These leaders have committed to invest heavily in your student’s life. Together, all will be encouraged to think critically about current issues and the impact these issues have on their lives and communities. It is our desire that your child will explore, discern, and engage with what they believe into every aspect of their lives.

In addition to the time and resources that LCU professors and students will invest directly through instruction and mentoring, the university will also award a $1000 institutional scholarship to participants who complete the full one-year program.