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Seminary’s experts emphasize ‘how we respond to our youth’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)-Youth minister Brian Holland called it “supernatural.”

The first Youth Ministry Institute hosted at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary during the weeks of Jan. 10 and 17 offered more than a replication of undergraduate and graduate classes in the regular academic semester.

“It’s supernatural” that the 12 experts who made presentations on a wide range of leading-edge topics for student ministry all came to a key conclusion, said Holland, of Duluth, Ga., even though the speakers had not met prior to the institute.

Real ministry often occurs after a youth event rather than during it, Holland recounted. “It’s all about how we respond to our youth, whether it’s a movie or a Bible study that one of my youth has led,” he said.

Guest speakers for the two weeklong sessions included such nationally recognized youth ministry leaders as Richard Ross, youth ministry coordination church consultant at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Walt Mueller, founder and president of the Center of Parent/Youth Understanding; and Mark Roberts, representative with the North American Mission Board’s recently adopted strategy “Fish the Planet,” a ministry that reaches youth in school about drugs, alcohol and morality issues, with the goal of beginning student-led campus groups.

After listening and interacting with the guest lecturers, institute participants discussed the personal issues they faced with each other. “It’s really energizing to see how the students interact,” said NOBTS doctoral student Jim Graham, who helped organize YMI. “Because youth ministry is such a challenging job, we wanted to help ministers stay alive, well and spiritually healthy in their ministries.”

“YMI is not an office or an organization — it is a concentrated educational delivery system,” said key organizer Allen Jackson, associate professor of youth education who occupies the J.M. Frost Chair of Christian Education at New Orleans Seminary.

YMI is designed “to help youth ministers hone their skills and increase their knowledge about the discipline and practice of youth ministry,” said Jackson, who served as a youth minister for 19 years. “Students benefit from exposure to the changing discipline of youth ministry.”

Seminary students of all levels, undergraduate, graduate and doctoral, each with level-defined syllabi, studied together with professional youth ministers who sought continuing education from the three basic content areas of youth ministry, youth culture and youth education.

In developing the program, Jackson wanted to provide cognitive content about youth ministry but wanted to change the context in which it was given. “Having guest speakers who are experts in their fields gives the students a deeper look at youth ministry,” he said.

Clark Cornelius, a graduate student at NOBTS’ extension center in Graceville, Fla., compared the event to national youth worker conventions. “The only difference is that the experts are standing right in front of me.” He added, “I can talk with them instead of just listening to what they have to say.”

Youth workers unable to attend YMI may see the notes from each speaker posted at www.nobts.edu/ymi.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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