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.
Everyone gives lip service to helping without hurting. We all know about toxic charity. But your mission trips and your service projects still don't look any different. And every summer we bypass our own city's blighted neighborhoods on our way to help out another city with theirs.
This summer, do justice right. Come alongside vulnerable neighborhoods and bear their burdens with them. But go deeper. Unearth the tragedies that have been inflicted upon them. Learn how they got that way and what we can do to heal these wounds by more than good intentions. This summer, join a Youthfront Missional Journey in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas or at our newly-reopened site in Croc, Mexico where we'll help your church move from charity and mercy to justice. Talk to one of our staff today.
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.
The public outcry following the verdict of the Zimmerman trial last summer exposed anew the pain and reality of the highly
racialized society we live in. Our churches and our youth ministries
are not exempt from these patterns of racial isolation. Beginning at 8:30 am on November 12,
Dr. Brandon Winstead will address the historical, social and cultural
issues that have shaped the realities of youth ministry and race in the
US. In a second session, Dr. Winstead will lead a panel discussion with
other scholars and ministry leaders regarding the implications and
future this reality holds for ministry among youth. We will conclude at
Keynote: Dr. Brandon Winstead
Panelists: Rev. Montague Williams, Dr. Claire Smith, Rev. David Gilmore and our very own Youthfront staff member Kurt Rietema
PRELUDE: an introductory action, or event preceding and preparing for a principal and/or extremely important matter
We invite you to join us at Youthfront Camp, located just 15 minutes from the Sentralized conference site, and enter into a time of formation and learning with each other as we explore our participation in God's unfolding story and the transformation of the emerging generation.
This year we will focus on:
* Nurturing flourishing communities of Christian practice.
* Spiritual formation of youth and young adults.
* Crafting life giving spiritual rhythms.
* Unleashing the imagination of youth and young adults for
the missio Dei.
* Contextualizing Christian Formation for pre-adolescents,
middle school, high school and late adolescents.
* Intergenerational ministry paradigms.
* Rethinking, reimagining evangelism.
SENTRALIZED: Sept. 26-28
WHERE: Youthfront Camp in Edgerton, KS
WHEN: Prelude begins at 10AM on Wednesday, September 25 and ends Thursday midday, September 26 in time for Sentralized registration and kickoff.
Why another conference? Two reasons. First, we believe there is a need to continue to bring clarity to the missional conversation. By bringing together some of today's best missional thinkers; we desire to assist God's people in thinking deeply about God's mission in the world. Second, we want to ensure the missional conversation moves beyond theory. We want to inspire and propel the church to engage in God's mission in life changing ways. That is why a significant feature of the conference will focus on practical engagement; through the stories and personal examples of some of the best missional practitioners around.
For more information about Sentralized or to enroll, click the button below:
On Baseball's Opening Day, Youthfront supporter, friend and associate Jeremy Affeldt
releases his first book taking readers off the field and into his life
story. The story of Jeremy’s relationship with our President Mike
and his involvement in our ministry, as well as details of his active
participation with Youthfront’s Something to Eat™ initiative are
featured prominently in the book. Expected to make multiple
best-seller lists, this book offers a compelling, page-turning story for
all readers. Another fan of Youthfront and five time Major League All
Star, Mike Sweeney says, “Jeremy Affeldt may be a two-time World Series
champion and one of the greatest left-handed relievers in major league
baseball but that is just the tip of the iceberg as to the man that he
is. As you will read in this book, Jeremy Affeldt is not defined by
baseball. He is defined and validated as a child and follower of the
most high God.”
Affeldt, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, tells of the ups and
downs of his life and major league career beginning with his childhood
spent in a military family, the impact his parents had on his life, and
his tumultuous high school years. Affeldt admits that he was often an
uncaring, self-centered athlete who was difficult for his parents and
teachers. So much so, that his dad kicked him out of the home on more
than one occasion. Although he attended a Christian school, Jeremy
wasn’t buying any of it until a series of events led him to see his need
After being kicked out of games and sitting the bench because of his
behaviors and his attitude, one of his coaches gave him books on
attitude and anger control as well as scriptures that Jeremy read mainly
so he wouldn’t have to watch the games from the stands. As the Bible
began to come alive for him, he was also influenced by God’s
transforming work in the life of another student who had been Jeremy’s
archenemy. That was the beginning of Jeremy’s close walk with Christ.
Jeremy Affeldt tells of his opportunities in baseball, his marriage
to his high school sweetheart and, of course, his success including two
World Series Championships – after many setbacks and injuries – in the
The book includes Jeremy Affedlt’s passion for social justice and his
humanitarian endeavors as he continues to use his time and finances to
do God’s work throughout the world. Available now, discover the side
of Jeremy that thrives off the field; the side that is passionate about
freeing the slave, feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty and
seeking justice for the oppressed.
For me Jesus Christ is THE thing and the center of my
faith. Youthfront's mission reflects this, to bring youth into a growing
relationship with JESUS CHRIST. Scripture, the Church, Christian
History and Thought, have been vital for my faith development.
Additionally theology has
been crucial for my faith journey. Theology
helps me make sense of the world around me, to actively engage in faith
seeking understanding, fueling my faith in the midst of challenging
realities that emerge all around me. Reading Theology is one of the
most devotional and inspiring things I do. I love theology and I love
Church leaders and members are perplexed by decades of accumulating
and overwhelming data indicating that the Christian church in North
America is failing to form disciples among adolescents who stay
connected to their churches. Church leaderships first question about
youth ministry is often “How many youth came to youth group this week?”
followed by, “Did they have fun?” which is indicative of the reality
that we have gotten way off course. This is more than a youth ministry
problem – this is a broader church problem.
I’ve been a proponent along with many associates, for a theological
turn in youth ministry. Theology is the study of the nature of God and
religious belief. A more serious encounter with faith, scripture, and
truth is desperately needed. Entertaining young people is NOT enough to
build a sustainable Christian faith. We cannot expect cheesy religious
platitudes to satisfy the curiosity and intelligence of most young
people who are examining the validity of Christianity.
Some Christians have downplayed the role of theology. But the reality
is we’re all theologians, whether we know it or not. Theology has to
do with what and how we think about God and who God is. Every human
being is thinking about God and who God is. C.S. Lewis declared, “If
you do not actively engage in theology it does not mean you will have no
ideas about God, it will mean that you have a lot of wrong ideas about
Theology and theological reflection are a necessity for youth
ministry to be true to Christianity and engage in Christian Formation
that witnesses the salvation of young people and the development of
disciples of Jesus Christ. Certainly a theological turn in youth
ministry is fuel for a much-needed correction of youth ministry practice
and the progression of Christian formation. The bottom line – If you
want to do youth ministry that makes a difference you have to do
theology. What does that mean and how does it work?
I believe today’s young adults are eager to engage in deep
theological reflection that allows them to wrestle with the issues that
are really important and can ultimately bring deep meaning to their
lives. I believe that young people are at a unique place in their
social, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development,
which gives them amazing potential to offer significant theological
voices for the whole church. James and Evelyn Whitehead describe
theological reflection as ‘the process of bringing to bear in the
practical decisions of ministry the resources of the Christian faith’.
The role of a theologically minded youth worker is to help young
people make meaning, Christian meaning for their lives. The work of a
Theologian involves – experience, reflection, and action. Helping young
people process issues facing them and their friends are fundamental to
theological reflection. Youth ministry is a wonderful opportunity to
engage in theologically robust ministry. Christian practice and
ministry will consistently raise questions related to faith, ethics and
action. Theology is engaged in most productively as a reflection of
ministry. By asking, “What was that experience all about?” Where is
God in this situation? What is our human responsibility? Who is Jesus
for me in my everyday existence and life? This is the kind of thinking
necessary if we are going to truly build disciples of Jesus Christ that
stay actively involved in the church and serve the mission of God.
At Youthfront we strive to curate the kind of environments that allow
young people to engage in honest theological reflection and dialogue
because it fuels faith. Often churches don’t do this because they are
fearful that questioning and critical thinking leads away from faith to
unbelief. The questions our youth wrestle with are often profound and
are the same questions that have perplexed theologians over two
Theologian David Tracy, believes that “two primary sources of
theology are the Christian texts and common human experiences, and the
task of theology is to investigate and correlate the two, in order to
‘show the adequacy of the major Christian theological categories for all
human existence.” At Youthfront we try to employ all of the sources of
theological reflection – scripture, tradition, reason, religious
experience, personal experience, community experience, culture, and
Christian practices. In all this process we uphold the Lord Jesus
Christ as the object of our faith, because salvation is the work of
Youthfront Youth Worker Learning Cohort is designed to feed the soul
and continued formation of youth workers. Through ten, 60-90 minute
video conference sessions with Mike King and Erik Leafblad, this year’s
cohort will help us think deeply about the formation of our lives as
pastors, whether we bear that official designation or not. Bringing the
wisdom of those who have gone before us into conversation with our own
contexts of ministry, in a dialogical setting, we hope to assess,
rethink and affirm one another in the high calling of ministry with
year participants will also have a chance to dialogue with some
leading thinkers in both pastoral ministry and youth ministry,
- Andrew Root - Sarah Arthur - Ian Cron - Kenda Creasy Dean
One of the things I think Christians should be known for but aren't within our culture is telling the truth. We live a tragic world where death gets death's way. Of all people we should put disneyland platitudes aside and tell the truth about brokenness and brokenness' destination - DEATH, because we are told "the last enemy to be destroyed is death" (I Corinthians 15:26). The reason we must tell the truth about tragedy and death is because we are people who have been promised resurrection. Resurrection is our hope through Jesus Christ who bodily arose from and conquered death.
For several years I've been intrigued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Benjamin Myers new book Christ the Stranger: The Theology of Rowan WIlliams is out and I'm wondering when I will be able to read it. This quote of Myers from the book posted in Books & Culture fuels my desire to read this sooner rather than later.
"Where moral reasoning tries to evade the tragic dimension, where
it posits an unambiguous good, it becomes an exercise in fantasy and a failure
to accept that God's grace is at work in the real, damaged world of human