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Practical tips & ‘head knowledge’ key to Youth Ministry Institute

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“There is no such thing as a ‘just add water’ model [of youth ministry]; it has to be contextualized,” said Allen Jackson, director of the Youth Ministry Institute (YMI) at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Youth ministers are inundated with materials telling them to ‘do it this way’; YMI gives them the tools they need to build their own model; one that fits their needs.”

Jackson, NOBTS associate professor of youth education, founded YMI in 1999 after recognizing the need to offer intensive training on the seminary’s main campus for students at NOBTS extension centers, none of which offer youth ministry courses. The 2004 institute, the fifth for YMI, was held Jan. 5-9 and 12-16 in New Orleans, with more than 140 registrants.

YMI participants, whether students or professionals in church or denominational settings, leave the conference with tools for ministry and what Jackson refers to as “head knowledge.” They then begin the process of applying and adapting what they learned to fit the needs and challenges of their own ministry context.

“They are challenging us as [youth] ministers to develop our ministry by consciously thinking about what we’re doing,” said Chad Hundsucker, youth ministry apprentice at First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. “They’re equipping us with the tools we need to do this efficiently and effectively.”

Hundsucker said the YMI sessions focused on life transformation for youth. The speakers taught participants how to “start with a lost kid and take them to where God wants them to be in a very directed and purposeful way.”

“The greatest thing is that you get to listen to seasoned veterans present great material,” said Mark White, an NOBTS student. “It is up to date, accurate and timely. They help you apply it in your own setting.”

This year’s speakers included Duffy Robbins, author, conference speaker and professor of youth ministry at Eastern University in St. David’s, Pa., and Stuart Hall, coauthor of “The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders: Seven Principles Every Teenager Needs to Know.” Breakout sessions and group worship opportunities also were part of the schedule.

While YMI includes some traditional classroom instruction, the institute’s innovative approach also incorporates multiple opportunities for discussion, trouble-shooting and practical application in ministry, with input from conference speakers and other leaders in the field.

“Instead of us grieving over not being able to offer youth ministry classes at the extension centers, we have a place where they can rally together,” Jackson said.

The institute also helps extension center students meet their on-campus requirements. All NOBTS extension center graduate programs require the completion of 30 semester hours on the main campus. Conference participants enrolled in certificate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctor of ministry programs have the option to earn up to six hours of on-campus academic credit over the two weeklong sessions.

“YMI is an academically bent conference with pre- and post-assignments for those who are taking it for course or certificate credit,” Jackson said. “It encompasses most of the skill-set required to do youth ministry. … It is an opportunity to learn, a chance to dialogue and develop a sense of connection with other youth ministers even after they leave this particular event.”
Further information about Youth Ministry Institute at NOBTS is available at www.youthministryinstitute.org. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: HALL’S MARK ON CONFERENCE.

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  • Katherine Albers