Abigail Flood ’23
Senior Abby Flood felt a distinct call to ministry when she was in high school. Even though she knew what she wanted to do, it still took some refinement through prayer and the seeking of wisdom and discernment to get to the point that there was purposeful confidence in her academic journey.
“I grew up in the Church, and my dad is a pastor,” she says. “Pretty much as soon as I moved out of elementary kids’ church, I went back in as a leader. I have always loved kids and considered it a privilege to be intentional about praying for them and encouraging them in their faith.”
By the time she arrived at freshman orientation at Olivet, Abby had a clear vision for building the Kingdom with intentional community — specifically by pursuing a degree in children’s ministry. She had applied to and was accepted into the University Honors Program, a unique cohort program in which students spend the first two years of their Olivet experience taking interdisciplinary classes that satisfy general education requirements through the exploration of what it means to be human. Students then spend their junior and senior years working on a capstone research project that furthers scholarship in their chosen area of academic study, with guidance from a faculty mentor and funding available to support the project.
Like many students, Abby didn’t know exactly how she wanted to frame her research project when she started the program, but she did have a head start. At a freshman orientation session, she connected with Dr. Leon Blanchette, a professor in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, who offered to be her faculty mentor for the capstone project. That seemingly small interaction paved the way for a mentoring connection that shaped her Honors Program and University experience.
“Throughout freshman and sophomore year, we talked about the project,” she reflects. “Dr. Blanchette asked what I was passionate about and encouraged me to consider how to include those interests in my research. I knew that I wanted to do a creative project and that I cared about the intersection of diversity and sociology.”
While Honors Program projects can creatively range from film scripts to art exhibits to architecture designs to social work surveys, all capstone projects incorporate extensive research to add to scholarship on a particular subject. In addressing diversity in the Church, Abby pulled from 2020 U.S. Census data; her experiences working in multiethnic ministry as an intern; and her own high school experience at a school where more than 50 languages were spoken and cultural respect was highly valued — a school consciously chosen by her parents.
Ultimately, Abby decided to write a curriculum for elementary church ministry. During her sophomore year, she put together a literary review to guide the research project. Although the research evolved over time, Abby was confident in the scope and design, and she kept many of the original sources. Now in its final stages of editing and reviewing, the five-week curriculum can be used to teach elementary children how to be a loving neighbor by unpacking the concept of the Kingdom of God through some of the parables in the Gospel of Luke.
“There were times that I questioned, ‘How am I worthy to do this project?’” she says. “But I knew the content was rooted in what Jesus taught, and loving diversity just flows out of that. To me, seeking the Kingdom of God is finding where Heaven and Earth come together as we live how God meant us to live.”
Abby’s project encourages diversity through loving one’s neighbor, so she was intentional about seeking out a wide panel of reviewers to ensure that she wasn’t taking too narrow of an approach. She understood that if diversity was about creating a safe space for everyone to thrive, then a multitude of voices would need to shape the content.
Though still in the midst of her final year on campus, Abby is already applying the knowledge gained through her classes and involvement in campus ministries as a part-time children’s director in Chicago. Balancing a full class schedule with the demands of a real-world job can be challenging, but Abby feels uniquely equipped to embrace the opportunities.
“It’s been very interesting to work while in school,” she says. “I know I belong in both places, and I get to directly apply my classwork in my ministry. I’ve also been able to encourage my classmates that what we’re working on at school really does matter — both to me and the people whose lives I get to impact.”
From Olivet The Magazine, Winter 2023. Read the full issue HERE.