Youth Ministry Round-Up

Here’s some stuff going on in the youth ministry world that is of note:

  • The National Youth Workers Convention takes place this weekend, with the addition of Theological Forums.  I think this is an excellent development.
  • I presented a paper at the Association of Youth Ministry Educators this fall, arguing that evangelical youth ministry is directly responsible for the Emerging Church Movement, which is a bit ironic since evangelicals have turned bearish on the movement.  A version of that paper is in the current issue of Immerse Journal, which you can download for free here.
  • The latest iteration of re:form has been released.  This one is called re:form ancestors, and it’s a character-based study of the Hebrew Scriptures (see video below).  A New Testament edition is next in the queue.

Dan Haugh Goes Deeper on Youth Ministry

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, I had an essay published in Immerse Journal on youth ministry and practical theology.  One pretty cool feature at Immerse is an online follow-up to journal articles called “Going Deeper.”  Dan Haugh, who blogs at Emerging Youth, has written in response to my essay.  Here’s a selection:

After a few years of actually doing youth ministry, I discovered firsthand the truth of Tony’s statement, “Life and ministry are rarely, if ever, systematic, thorough, comprehensive. Life and ministry are not clinical. Instead, they’re messy and challenging, and they demand ad hoc, on-the-fly decision making.”

My answers were reflections of my limited understanding and experiences and often did not align with the concrete life journeys of my students. The answers I did offer amounted to outdated prehistoric verbiage that had little relevance with where students were living right then and there.

Over time, and through countless hours of reading, conversations, prayer and reflection, I began to transition toward a practical-theological approach with our students. As a result, we don’t tell them what to believe and why anymore. Instead, as Tony suggests, we “catalyze conversations” by creating atmospheres that foster open and honest conversation about the realities of life and the confusion of faith. We encourage our students to think critically so they might arrive at their own independent answers.

via Immerse Journal > Going Deeper with: Tony Jones’s “A Theology Primer”.

A Theological Primer for Youth Ministry

That’s the subject of my article in Immerse: A Journal of Faith, Life, and Youth Ministry.  Below is a taste.  You can preview the article at the Immerse website or, if you’re smart, subscribe!

In standard Protestant seminaries and divinity schools, departments are regimented along the fourfold “theological encyclopedia” model of the 18th century: biblical studies, church history, systematic theology and practical theology.

And in most seminaries, the hierarchy of power follows the same pattern. The biblical studies professors usually have the most power and the practical theology faculty the least. In fact, some seminaries get away with hiring retired pastors to act as adjunct professors in the practical theology department and teach classes on preaching, pastoral care and other hands-on ministry courses.

If you sense a bit of a chip on my shoulder regarding the place of practical theology in the academy—and in the church at large—you’re right. And I’m not the only one. A lot of us in practical theology feel like the unwanted stepchildren of the “real” theologians in the systematic department.


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