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!
For the last two years I have been a part of an amazing project called the Museum of the Bible. I have served as a Senior Advisor for the museum. I am working closely with former Youthfront staff member and current Youthfront Board member, as well as my dear friend and colleague for the last forty years, Tim Smith. Tim is a Vice President and Director of Development. The video below is is an extended virtual tour of the 430,000-square-foot Museum of the Bible being constructed in Washington, D.C. The Museum is slated to open in November, 2017 and is located a couple blocks off of the Washington Mall, near the US Capital Building. Watch the video and you will see why I am so excited to be a part of this legacy project. Below the video is the Official Executive Summary for one of the projects that I'm heading up for the Museum. In the fall I secured a substantial planning grant from the John Templeton Foundation for Museum of the Bible and I'm excited about the potential to change the conversation concerning the Bible and Science.
Official Executive Summary for the Museum of the Bible and John Templeton Foundation Planning Grant:
A narrative has developed in the Western world that scripture and science are incompatible. Many believe science has shown the Bible to no longer be relevant and even responsible for holding back human progress. There are also those who believe that scripture necessitates an adversarial position against science. While elements of this narrative are certainly understandable in our current cultural milieu, we believe they are mistaken and damaging. The MOTB has an opportunity to help overcome these misleading views. We will use this planning grant from the John Templeton Foundation to determine the best, most effective ways to develop initiatives, programs, research, scholarship and exhibits focusing on the Bible and its impact on science in an accurate, comprehensible, compelling and memorable manner. This grant will support planning for the Bible and science portions of a signature traveling exhibit and for the Museum itself, and add rich science and scripture content to other projects and initiatives of MOTB. The planning grant will enable us to plan and facilitate up to seven strategic gatherings involving scholars, theologians, scientists, practitioners, literary and cultural experts who will together explore how MOTB and its initiatives can enhance the public dialogue concerning the convergence between the Bible, science and scholarship. In addition, we will engage in a small but high leverage research project to assess secular openness to initiatives we hope will change the conversation in the broader culture concerning the relationship between science and the Bible. This project will produce a detailed plan for compelling exhibits focusing on science and the Bible and create a fully- developed proposal for the John Templeton Foundation requesting support to implement plans. We believe the stakes are high if the presentation of the Bible and Science relationship is not informative and intelligent.
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
On Thursday, February 25th, Ian Cron will be our guest speaker for our third 2015-2016 Youth Worker Training. From 9a to 4p at Christ Community Church Brookside Campus, Ian will be sharing about "An Enneagram Experience for Ministry Leaders." Don't miss it!
Argentine has a lot going for it with new efforts at revitalization, but like many under-resourced, urban neighborhoods, it has familiar problems. Connect with young people who are joining God's mission to restore beauty in Argentine. Hands-on work during a Youthfront Missional Journey in Argentine will include painting, clean up and minor home repair.
Our after-school program in Croc has more than 14 years, and is currently run by a local team. It provides kids with activities and classroom time where they can learn their place within God's mission. On a Youthfront Missional Journey in Croc, your will host a summer camp for local kids, prepare games, workshops, and classes. You'll work alongside a local team to give kids a quality education in subjects like math and Spanish, and also to better understand themselves, one another, and the world around them.
I WAS HUNGRY & YOU GAVE ME SOMETHING TO EAT
Something to Eat is a learning experience where we equip youth to discover the systems that produce hunger. A pulsating spirit sweeps over our events where youth package meals to help families both locally and globally. As they draw closer to the struggle that is faced by nearly 1 out of 6 kids in the US, they also draw closer to God and to one another.
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.
I think the article I'm linking to below is a thoughtful article about how ideology is destroying civil discourse and learning. As a follower of God in the way of Jesus Christ, I want to be allegiant to the Kingdom of God. I believe this requires me to be pastorally open to other people who think differently than me either from the right or the left. I know what I believe and it's rooted deeply in Christian orthodoxy but that doesn't mean I can't associate with people thinking differently than I do. What I have found is that ideology, both from the right and from the left, from conservatives and liberals, is exhausting and significantly dumbing down our culture. Just look at what is happening in Washington DC. Because we have lost the art of civil discourse, all ideologies have "political correct" litmus tests, which allow them to label, dismiss, demonize and dehumanize anyone outside of their way of thinking. Jesus Christ should have succumbed to this type of behavior in his day but he constantly looked into the face of the other and opened up new possibilities of what it means to be fully human in the world in which we live. The ideologues of his day crucified him. Whoever you are, whatever you so strongly believe in, if you really believe it, then you shouldn't be intimidated, nor afraid to dialogue with people who think differently than you.