In 2012, hundreds of leaders, ministers, volunteers, parents, and students gathered in Washington, DC, for “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” (CYNKC) a groundbreaking gathering about spiritual formation, young people, and the future of the church. After the success of this event, CYNKC founder Dave Csinos launched Faith Forward as a not-for-profit organization aimed at continuing the movement that began at that seminal event in Washington. Faith Forward is an ecumenical Christian organization that brings together forward-thinking leaders in children’s and youth ministry for collaboration, resourcing, and inspiration toward innovative theology and practice.
It’s with this vision in mind that Faith Forward will host its 2014 gathering in Nashville on May 19-22 (www.faith-foward.net). By bringing together pastors, Christian educators, youth leaders, denominational representatives, parents, and allies, Faith Forward will deeply explore what it means to really form sustained faith in youth and children. The 2014 gathering will be really unique. Events include:
· Presentations from an all-star lineup of speakers, including yours truly, Phyllis Tickle, Brian McLaren, Andrew Root, Sandy Sasso, Anne Wimberly, Melvin Bray, Mark Yaconelli, Ivy Beckwith, and many others
· Unique workshops offered by cutting-edge practitioners and leaders
· Music led by Aaron Niequist and Sharon Irving
· A spoken word performance by teens from Southern Word
· Resources and exhibits from all sorts of organizations
· Opportunities to forge relationships across denominations, traditions, and perspectives
Join me and many others in Nashville as we re-imagine children’s and youth ministry, May 19-22. Visit www.faith-forward.net for more information and to register.
Over the last several years, I, and Youthfront have recieved criticism for challenging young people to cooperate with God's Mission in the world to bring restoration and redemption as a significant part of their Christian Formation. Doing works of mercy and justice have been criticised as being a replacement for evangelism. I can't begin to tell you how often we've heard a label of "social justice" attached to us as a criticism. Most of the time, I've, we (Youthfront) absorb the criticism and continue to do what God has called us to do. But, to be honest, it often stings because it comes sometimes from friends, or former staff of alumni who want things to stay how "they used to be." For sure, I, we no longer train young people to engage in evangelism that starts the narrative with the fall of humanity into sin. The story starts with God creating human beings in the image of God and that is good news. Yes, the story includes the sinful fall of human beings. We are all broken and in need of the work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who brings redemptions and ultimately the restoration of all things. We who know Christ are called to cooperate with God's movement to bring about the restoration of all things - our broken relationship with God, our own broken relationship with ourselves, our broken relationship with others and our broken relationship with the entire cosmos. Fortunately, those who have been critical because they believe their culturally shaped understanding of Christianity is the "only truth" are being exposed more and more as having a theology that is more nationalistically and politically inspired. Those who are embracing a more robust understanding of Gospel and the life of Jesus Christ who believe that Jesus didn't come just to get us into heaven when we die but to pick up our cross (not a democrat cross or a republican cross, and certainly not a rich cross or an American cross) and follow Jesus, bearing witness to the good news, to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God. This gospel is one that young people are willing to give their lives to, and YES, they are engaged in evangelism. Here is the just released data from the BARNA Group. Take note, "Millennials are the only generation among whom evangelism is significantly on the rise."
All that follows in the rest of this post is from the Barna Group from their report on The Most Evangelistic Generation.
They've been called "the social justice generation," and for good reason—Millennials are actively taking up the cause of the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow. Yet the most common critique leveled at this surge in social compassion is that it comes at a great expense. Sure, skeptics argue, they might feed the hungry and free the captives in this life, but what about the next? According to this view, Millennials are elevating physical needs over spiritual needs and forgoing evangelism altogether. Yet the latest Barna research reveals this is not the case. In fact, in answer to the question of evangelism on the rise or in decline, Millennials are a rare case indeed. While the evangelistic practices of all other generations have either declined or remained static in the past few years, Millennials are the only generation among whom evangelism is significantly on the rise. Their faith-sharing practices have escalated from 56% in 2010 to 65% in 2013. Not only that, but born again Millennials share their faith more than any other generation today. Nearly two-thirds (65%) have presented the Gospel to another within the past year, in contrast to the national average of about half (52%) of born again Christians.
My friend, associate and Youthfront board member, Dr. Dean Blevins recently posted a wonderful summary of the Youth Ministry and Race Relations Dialogue we held at NTS.
"Every once in a while you realize you are in the middle of something really, really special. I have over thirty-five years experience listening to presentations in varying contexts, first in broadcast television news and later in academic settings. November 12th was special, as I sat in a pew and was drawn into a panel discussion over the issues of youth ministry and race." Read rest of the post here.
Dr. Dean G. Blevins currently serves as Professor of Practical Theology and Christian Discipleship at Nazarene Theological Seminary. An ordained elder, Dean has ministered in diverse settings and currently also serves at the USA Regional Education Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene. A prolific author, Dr. Blevins recently co-wrote the textbook Discovering Discipleship and edits Didache: Faithful Teaching, a journal for Wesleyan Education.
We hosted around 100 Pastors, Youth Pastors and Ministry leaders yesterday at Youthfront for a focus on Immigration reform. The event was sponsored by CCDA and featured CCDA's President Noel Castellanos. Youthfront staff members Kurt Rietema and Amber Booth, along with Mission Adelante staff member Jason Schoff organized this informative event.
Here is a video of the media coverage of the event.
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do
him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the
native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were
strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
At Immerse Journal, we believe in good and faithful cultural
realities. For the past several years this has meant publishing
seriously intelligent and creative essays on the topic of youth
But good things are meant to be shared. That's why we are pleased to
announce that as of April 1 we are enlarging our focus to bring the
conversation to our friends in the larger church community.
The new Immerse will sound like a person expounding. On the subjects
you want. We're writing on more. And we're writing on mission.
What you love about us will stay largely the same: theological
sophistication, expert opinions, and thoughtful commentary on church
culture and culture overall. We had a hunch that issues impacting youth
ministry must eventually be addressed in the broader ecclesial context.
We knew there was more to the story, so now we want to go there too—and
we'd like to bring you with us.
Beginning this spring, Immerse will publish four journals yearly.
Arrangements have been made for the fulfillment of your current
subscription. However, for those wishing to opt out, you'll find a
refund option available inside your first issue. For the record, we
don't think you'll want to leave.
To subscribe to the new Immerse Journal or find more information, please visit us at our website. Join the conversation.
Mark your calendars for this valuable opportunity to come together with
other youth workers from around our KC district to learn and grow together!
The cost will be $15 which includes lunch . Click here to register for this great day of
training, resourcing and connection. Below is the great youth worker line
up we have for this year...many of these speakers are people who have spoke at
national youth ministry conferences, so it's like attending a national
conference at a great local ministry price! Please invite as many youth
workers as you know. Scholarships are available if you know someone in
need - Contact Tom Craig at [email protected]
if you or someone you know needs a scholarship to attend.
AND as a SPECIAL BONUS, HANG OUT WITH AYME's DISTINGUISHED CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR, KENDA CREASY DEAN.
What is the future of Christian
proclamation in a society increasingly driven by networked technologies
and 140-character communications? What place does preaching to young
people have in such a society, and what form might it take? How might we
move from mere sermons and “youth talks” into affecting the lives of
I'm excited to participate in this important Conference. COME JOIN US.
You can receive a 20% discount by entering this code - preach
I was asked the following question. What research have you come across that would be helpful for
youth workers to better understand how the systems and events of this culture are
Great question. A paper entitled Brands:
The Opiate of the Nonreligious Masses?, has been published in Marketing
Science.[i] The research team was made up of
scholars from Tel Aviv University, Duke University and New York
University. According to their
data they claim that religiously minded people are less interested in consumer
products that are branded by a major brand name. In the study those who claim to be non-religious are much
more reliant on well-known brand products, especially when they have the
financial means to afford major brands.
The research team theorizes,
“Brands and religiosity may serve as substitutesfor one another
because both allow individuals to express theirfeelings of
"’Brands are a signal of
self-worth,’ Fitzsimons[ii] said. ‘We're signaling to others that we care about
ourselves and that we feel good about ourselves and that we matter in this
world. It's more than I'm hip or cool,
he said: ‘I'm a worthwhile person, and I matter, and you should respect me and
think that I'm a good person, because I've got the D&G on my glasses.’"[iii]
The Christian faith
is to be lived within a community of practice. Being connected to a faith community says a lot about who a
person is and what they value. If
we don’t know who we are in Jesus Christ and if we struggle to make meaning out
of life through faith then, certainly Apple, Juicy Couture, Gap or Urban
Outfitters more than willing to help fill the void by providing some sense of
self-worth, right? Some marketers are actually attempting to attach
religious overtone to some brands in order to attract consumers looking for
meaning, identity and purpose in life – think True Religion.
Andy Root pointed out, at a youth worker training day
at Youthfront, that young adults are selecting and creating identities for
themselves. One can create their
own profile and craft an identity based on what they buy, wear and
consume. This raises the
importance of a renewed and vigorous emphasis on Christian formation and an
intentional theological exploration of what it means to help adolescents form an
identity rooted in Jesus Christ. I
believe a theology that focuses on what it means to live a cruciform life is
essential in the midst of our consumerist cultural realities.
I think this study is very interesting for those of us who
are involved in ministry to adolescents and young adults as we engage in
dialogue about what brings meaning to our lives. The researchers claims that those who are identified as
“religious minded” people are less likely to be enslaved by major status brands
is encouraging to me. Embracing an
ethos that Jesus Christ is enough will
help us counter the script that suggests we find meaning through the creed I consume, therefore I am.
My article was originally published in Slant33.
[i] "Brands: The Opiate of the Non-Religious Masses?"
Ron Shachar, Tülin Erdem, Keisha M. Cutright, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Marketing
Science, articles in advance, Sept. 24, 2010. DOI: 10.1287/mksc.1100.0591
[ii] Gavan J. Fitzsimons; R. David
Thomas Professor of Marketing and Psychology; F.M. Kirby Research Fellow; Duke