Churches have a variety of understanding as to what constitutes “youth.” For some this incorporates all ministry with those under 18 years of age (in High School and below). For others, it means teenagers. And there is a huge disparity in the attention span, interests, physical development, and maturity between a 13-year-old (Middle Schooler) and 18-year-old (soon-to-graduate High Schooler). Add the new label of a Tween (older elementary / early Middle School) individual who is living in two worlds – one of a child and one of a teen; an “in-between-er.”
There are a variety of curricular programs and resources for all of these age levels. But it takes an astute volunteer or youth leader to know the different needs of each group and how best to minister with them.
Recently someone posted a request on the Forma Facebook Group page for ideas as to where one might go to receive further training or continuing education in youth ministry. And of course, there was an abundance of suggestions. So, with thanks to all those folks, here are the organizations and conferences they’ve listed, plus a few that I’m aware of:
YMI: Youth Ministry Initiative is a collaborative project between New Canaan Congregational Church (in Connecticut) and Yale Divinity School (New Haven, CT) with an association with the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Its mission is to create authentic human flourishing among youth by enhancing, supporting, and connecting transformative youth ministries within faith communities. YMI offers a variety of resources and programs for those who have a passion for working with youth (teens). One of its accessible programs no matter where you live is The Lunch & Lecture Series. Begun in 2012 on Yale’s campus at Berkeley Divinity School in New Haven, it has offered well-known speakers from across the denominational spectrum including Amanda Drury, Roger Nishioka, Christian Smith, David White, Lillian Daniel, Tony Jones, Chap Clark, Andrew Root, and Anne E. Streaty Wimberly. Held monthly during the academic year in New Haven, all lectures are live streamed and are available online via video in an extensive listing covering all lectures.
The Forma Certificate in Family & Youth Ministry is part of the Faith Formation Academy of Forma. Designed for those who are actively engaged in the practice of youth ministry or feel called to deepen their own understanding of the practice of youth ministry, the program equips participants with a foundational learning, rooted in the practical application to their specific ministry context. This program is designed to provide an overview of core biblical, theological, Episcopal, and practical knowledge that will be applied directly to the practice of ministry with youth and their families. Applications are found on the website noted above.
The Institute for Youth Ministry at Princeton (New Jersey) offers a variety of programs and conferences. The Princeton Forum on Youth Ministry is offered annually; a week of extended seminars and plenary speakers along with elective classes, typically held in the Spring. They also offer a Certificate in Youth & Theology. It is designed to help youth ministers integrate theology and ministry, incorporate best practices, build vocational friendships, and learn from experienced practitioners and theologians.
AWWWY: Adults Who Work with Youth is an annual conference at Kanuga (Hendersonville, NC) is a week of education, rest and networking with volunteer and professional youth leaders from across the country. Typically held in June.
Faith Forward (formerly known as Children & Youth for a New Christianity) is an annual event held in the Spring (usually April or May) from a broad theological perspective with roots in the evangelical community. So it may be a bit more “protestant” in its liturgical frame-of-mind (if that’s even a “thing”).
There are a dozen of youth ministry trainings and conferences, but it’s important to determine their theological viewpoints and capability with an Episcopal ethos. Know any others that fit a progressive, via-media theological approach? Share them below in the comment section so that others may benefit and learn about them too!