Save the date for our last training session of the school year! Dr. Jason Lief will be with us to talk about "Poetic Youth Ministry," and will explore the issue of young people and faith, specifically focusing on the various responses of the Christian community to the research suggesting young people are leaving the church.
Don't miss this opportunity and register now for this session!
Jason Lief teaches Theology and Youth Ministry at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. He is also the founder and director of The Prairie Project—a week long ministry event that introduces high school students to the diverse culture of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Jason is the author of the book Poetic Youth Ministry: Learning to Love Young People by Letting them Go and is currently writing a book focusing on the intersection of Theology and Heavy Metal music. Jason is married to Tamara and they have three kids: Naomi (13), Christian (11), and Savannah (8).
Session 1: “I Didn’t Know we had a Pool”: Taking WALL-E to Youth Ministry
This session will explore the issue of young people and faith, specifically focusing on the various responses of the Christian community to the research suggesting young people are leaving the church. Using the film WALL-E this session with explore the social and cultural issues that impact religious belief. This discussion will provide the framework for a “poetic” form of youth ministry that is informed by a particular way of thinking about what it means to be the “church”.
Session 2: The Politics of Poetic Youth Ministry
This session will focus on the practical side of a “poetic” approach to youth ministry. What are the issues young people struggle with in the West? How do young people form and shape an identity? How can the Christian community engage in a form of ministry that invites young people to embrace their humanity in the new humanity of Jesus Christ? Using insights from theology, cultural theory, and philosophy this session will explore the practical wisdom at the center of a poetic approach to youth ministry that provides the basis for formative practices and a political approach to pastoral care.
Date: Thursday, April 7, 9:00a – 1:00p, lunch included
My experience at LaCygne has been powerful for my spiritual life.
I went on several hikes and worshiped God in nature unlike any other experience I've ever had. The daily worship, scripture and prayer times combined with the environment of the prayer space were impactful providing me peace and a strong connection to God. Whenever I go to LaCygne I leave feeling reassured in my spirituality and focused on my priorities.
I come home feeling like my experience at LaCygne prepared me for every day life as a teenager who wants to follow Christ.
I went to LaCygne by myself and didn't really know anyone. It was a chance to meet new people - a lot to do every day and I loved that the activities were optional.
One night after an evening gathering, they surprised us with the "Fugitives" game. It required us to run around in the pitch black dark, looking for clues and avoiding the other team. The combination of the surprise factor (out of the ordinary) and the high stakes made it feel like the Hunger Games. It was really awesome, we were scared and laughing at the same time!
Fugitives actually helped me bond with some other girls and I made life long friends.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the most beloved Christian pastors and theologians of the 20th century, often being listed on the top of everyone’s most influential Christians. Yet, there has been a major oversight when it has come to exploring his life and thought, this omission has been the centrality of Bonhoeffer youth work and children’s ministry. Between 1925 and 1939 all of Bonhoeffer’s direct ministry practice was with children and youth, leading the experience of children and youth into his well known theological works, as well inspiring him to write much less known pieces and sermons about and for young people. This presentation will look to right this biographical wrong, by exploring Bonhoeffer’s work with young people, seeing how he might inspire our own ministry, giving us new perspectives on our own work with young people.
Andrew Root, PhD (Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is most recently the author of Christopraxis: A Practical Theology of the Cross (Fortress, 2014) and Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker (Baker, 2014). He has also written The Relational Pastor (IVP, 2013) as well as a four book series with Zondervan called A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry (titles include Taking Theology to Youth Ministry, Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry, Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry, and Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry). In 2012 his book The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (with Kenda Creasy Dean, IVP, 2011) was Christianity Today Book of Merit. He has written a number of other books on ministry and theology such as The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Baker Academic, 2010), The Promise of Despair (Abingdon, 2010), Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation (IVP, 2007) and Relationships Unfiltered (Zondervan/YS, 2009). Andy has worked in congregations, parachurch ministries, and social service programs. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Kara, two children, Owen and Maisy, and their two dogs. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Andy spends far too much time watching TV and movies.
There is something about playing and games that bring people together. As I reflect upon my life, I clearly remember my childhood and adolescent years being a time when I was consistently creating activities for friends to participate in cooperative fun. I organized play and created games. When I was younger, I was creating scenarios in which my playmates could pretend that we were on great adventures while accomplishing important tasks. From late childhood into adolescence my organizing play mostly involved sports related activity. As I got older, I enjoyed playing board games and cards with my family and friends. I often wonder if I organized and led play because leadership DNA was a part of my personality or if these activities helped shape my desire to lead.
Play is important because play is something human beings were created to do. The Bible is mostly silent concerning the issue of play. However, the Scriptures mention play, dance, creativity, and celebration often. The issue of play in youth ministry has come up a lot in conversations about programs, events, and activities and their roles in youth ministry praxis. It is an important critique to insist that youth ministry should be more than fun, games, and activities in order to engage meaningfully in the Christian formation of our youth. At the same time, though, to hold a position that doesn’t include a theology of play is a big mistake. And by theology of play, I don’t mean making a cheesy spiritual application to a game of Capture the Flag or describing how our life is like a volleyball that sometimes gets hit out of bounds.
All this to say, I'm really excited about our Youthworker Training Day this week. When Youthfront offers training to youth workers we tend to lean toward substance and theology. We will be focusing on play and gaming. However, don’t make the mistake that we will be giving you the top ten games to try out on your youth group. In fact, this training day could be one of the most important we've hosted in a long time.
Dr. Mark Hayse is the Director of the Center for Games and Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University. He holds an undergraduate degree in religion, a Masters in religious education, and a PhD in educational studies. His dissertation topic was “Religious Architecture in Videogames: Perspectives from Curriculum Theory and Religious Education.” He is director of the Honors Program at MNU and was awarded the Alpha Chi Donald Metz Award – Faculty Member of the Year for Distinctive Academic Contributions in 2007. Mark has written numerous scholarly publications on games and gaming and regularly presents on these topics. His 20 years spent in youth work, with an ongoing emphasis on games and recreation as well as his research into how games can be used in education will continue to further the mission of the Center for Games & Learning. In addition to conducting research on the use of tabletop games in educational settings, Mark has helped the Center build a collection of over 50 tabletop games that have been identified for their ability to foster students’ development of “21 Century” skills.
Matt Saunders, is the Program Director at Youthfront Camp West. Not only does he make sure that more than 3,000 middle school have an awesome time at camp but he recently became a published game designer. His first title, “Mow Money” will be released this fall. During his years in church youth ministry, Matt used meaningful play as part of spiritual formation.
FIRST THINGS has reposted an article by Stanley Hauerwas entitled, AN OPEN LETTER TO YOUNG CHRISTIANS ON THEIR WAY TO COLLEGE. We had a great summer working with nearly 100 college students in our ministry initiatives at Youthfront. I'm posting excerpts of this article for their benefit and for all of those who are entering a new season in their life. Hauerwas discusses the destructive myths that too many Christian students fall into concerning what college is all about. I pray that the students we have worked with on Youthfront staff, along with the hundreds we have ministered to who are beginning their college experience will read this and take it to heart. God Bless you. You are beloved.
The Christian religion,” wrote Robert Louis Wilken, “is inescapably ritualistic (one is received into the Church by a solemn washing with water), uncompromisingly moral (‘be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,’ said Jesus), and unapologetically intellectual (be ready to give a ‘reason for the hope that is in you,’ in the words of 1 Peter). Like all the major religions of the world, Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history.”
Ritualistic, moral, and intellectual: May these words, ones that Wilken uses to begin his beautiful book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, be written on your soul as you begin college and mark your life—characterize and distinguish your life—for the next four years. Be faithful in worship. In America, going to college is one of those heavily mythologized events that everybody tells you will “change your life,” which is probably at least half true. So don’t be foolish and imagine that you can take a vacation from church.
Be uncompromisingly moral. Undergraduate life on college campuses tends in the direction of neopagan excess. Good kids from good families too often end up using their four years at college to get drunk and throw up on one another. Too often they do so on their way to the condom dispensers. What a waste! Not only because such behavior is self-destructive but also because living this way will prevent you from doing the intellectual work the Christian faith demands. Be deeply intellectual. We—that is, the Church—need you to do well in school. That may sound strange, because many who represent Christian values seem concerned primarily with how you conduct yourself while you are in college; they relegate the Christian part of being in college to what is done outside the classroom.
It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it.
I certainly hope you will be attracted to the work of theology. These days—at least in the West, where the dominant intellectual trends have detached themselves from Christianity—the discipline of theology is in a world of hurt, often tempted by silly efforts to dress up the gospel in the latest academic fashions. So God knows we need all the help we can get. But there is a wider sense of being a theologian, one that simply means thinking about what you are learning in light of Christ. This does not happen by making everything fit into Church doctrine or biblical preaching—that’s theology in the strict, official sense. Instead, to become a Christian scholar is more a matter of intention and desire, of bearing witness to Christ in the contemporary world of science, literature, and so forth.
Let me return to Robert Wilken’s observation about the ritual, moral, and intellectual life of the Christian. Don’t fool yourself. Only a man or woman who has undergone a long period of spiritual discipline can reliably pray in the solitude of a hermitage. You’re young. You need the regular discipline of worship, Bible reading, and Christian fellowship. Don’t neglect them in college. Also, don’t underestimate the moral temptations of the contemporary college scene. We cannot help but be influenced by the behavior of our friends, so choose wisely.
To worship God and live faithfully are necessary conditions if you are to survive in college. But as a Christian you are called to do more than survive. You are called to use the opportunity you have been given to learn to construe the world as a creature of a God who would have us enjoy—and bask in—the love that has brought us into existence. God has given your mind good work to do. As members of the Church, we’re counting on you. It won’t be easy. It never has been. But I can testify that it can also be a source of joy.
What a wonderful adventure you have before you. I wish you well.
Stanley Hauerwas is Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School.
Dr. Chap Clark from Fuller Theological Seminary is coming to Kansas City! Youthfront is hosting a free Youthworker Training on Dec 11th at Christ Community Church Brookside Campus. Plus it's hard to beat Lunch from Oklahoma Joe's! REGISTER TODAY
Chapman “Chap” Clark is associate provost for strategic projects and professor and chair of the Youth, Family, and Culture Department in the School of Theology. He also serves as director of the Student Leadership Project and is the School of Theology’s representative on the executive board of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI). On faculty since 1997, he created and directs Fuller’s master’s level and Doctor of Ministry programs in Youth, Family, and Culture, and oversees PhD students in practical theology who are studying youth and family ministry, youth culture, and adolescent development.
A well-known practitioner, adolescent and family scholar, and author, Clark has more than 30 years of experience in direct ministry, including 15 years with Young Life, as well as positions with several churches, Denver Seminary, Youth Specialties, and for seven years, as senior editor of Youthworker Journal. He is currently on the teaching team of Harbor Christian Center in Gig Harbor, Washington, is president of ParenTeen and Harbor Hope Services, and continues to work closely with Young Life.
Clark’s extensive publications of books, articles, and videos focus primarily on relationships. Among the books he has authored, coauthored, and edited are Adopted (forthcoming), Youth Ministry in the 21st Century (forthcoming), Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers and Hurt 2.0 (2004, a CBA finalist for Book of the Year), Sticky Faith (2010), Counseling Teenagers (2010), When Kids Hurt: Helping Adults Navigate the Adolescent Maze (2009), Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World (2007), Deep Justice in a Broken World: Helping Your Kids Serve Others and Right the Wrongs around Them (2007), Deep Ministry in a Shallow World (2006), Teens and Sex: A Leadership Video Curriculum (American Association of Christian Counselors, 2003), From Father to Son (2002), Starting Right: A Practical Theology of Youth Ministry (2001), Daughters and Dads (1998), The Youth Worker’s Handbook to Family Ministry (1997), and Let Me Ask You This . . . Conversations that Draw Couples Closer (1991). He has also edited and contributed to major youth and family ministry textbooks.
Jake Kircher’s book Teaching Teenagers in a Post-Christian Worldis a quick but important read for far too many of us youth workers who declare that we have a plan for ministering to youth but deep down aren’t really sure that what we are accomplishing will actually last. Kircher is not afraid to be honest about his youth ministry past and what he believes today.