Each main session is centered around a realistic case study drawn from actual youth ministry experiences. Instead of listening to a keynote speaker’s “usual schtick,” our Dialogue Partners will lend their expertise and wisdom to addressing the real-live case study before we set you free to converse in small groups of youth workers to address the case study yourselves. In each session you’ll have opportunity to hear multiple solutions and approaches from other youth workers and experts in the room — ways of responding that will expand your own thoughts, theology and ways of responding.
While churches wrestle with doctrine and polity regarding gender and sexuality, youth and their families are dealing with real issues of faith and belonging. Abstract debates about gender and sexuality continue to dominate church and society, but youth workers are needing to respond concretely and practically to the lived realities of teenagers. We’ll certainly have a variety of theological perspectives, but we’ll converse together about how we can respond faithfully and compassionately to the needs of today’s youth.
Our fast-paced, achievement-driven society continues to take a heavy toll on youth who now describe themselves as anxious, over-burdened, and stressed out at higher rates than adults. Meanwhile, the number of adolescents with diagnosed anxiety disorders is at an all time high. Whether stressed out from the pressure to achieve in middle and upper class communities, or the pressures of daily life in under-resourced communities, American teenagers are facing a crisis that youth ministers are struggling to address as they face declining youth ministry attendance. How do we minister in a society that doesn’t prioritize church because they are too busy and stressed out with everything else? How might youth ministry be a source of refuge and replenishment instead of contributing to the stress? In dialogue with our invited practical theologians, we’ll work together to find concrete answers and theological guiding principles for addressing the crisis of stress and anxiety facing American teenagers.
As American society experiences a public resurgence in white nationalism, hostility toward immigrants, and racially motivated violence, Sunday morning remains the most segregated time in America. The silence and inaction of white congregations on matters of race and privilege is mirrored in youth ministry where the topic is often labeled too “hot-button,” or “political,” or even “off topic.” Yet, scripture clearly calls the church to be a body in which there is no “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11). Racism has deep sociological roots in many of our congregations and communities, so how do we go about addressing it with boldness and shrewdness? What can we do in youth ministry to affect the church as a whole? How can we be the Body of Christ together? In open and transparent conversation we’ll search for concrete answers together with our practical theologians as we tackle these sensitive but important issues.