The Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the Center for Youth Ministry Training $240,000 to fund its Theology Together program over the next three years. Over the past 20 years, the Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded nearly $90 million in grants to fund their Youth and Theology Initiative. Theology Together will seek to learn from and build upon previous Youth and Theology projects.
Andrew Zirschky, CYMT’s Academic Director, will serve as the Theology Together project director.
Theology Together seeks to educate youth workers in tandem with the teenagers with whom they minister while changing the climate of congregational youth ministry as they together introduce theological dialogue, vocational discernment, and reflective action into the fabric and flow of youth ministry in the local church.
By creating an environment in which youth are engaged in theological discussion and reflective action with their youth leaders, not only are youth expanded in their theological knowledge and conceptions, but youth leaders are simultaneously trained in the art of engaging young people in theological dialogue. An added benefit is that youth and adults return to the congregational context together to further expand the theological repertoire and engagement of the entire youth ministry.
Every Theology Together immersion experience, then, (a) combines robust theological and vocational exploration for youth in the context of relational service work, (b) equips youth workers to conduct theological discussions with young people, and (c) fosters the development of creative and theologically rich youth ministry practices within congregational youth ministry.
Five objectives will guide the efforts of Theology Together:
Theology Together seeks to appropriate best practices gleaned from high school theology programs and deploy these for transforming congregational youth ministry. We suggest that transforming congregational youth ministry is most likely to occur by bringing youth workers and youth together in educational and transformational experiences, and then equipping, encouraging, and resourcing them to initiate ongoing practices of theological and vocational discernment in their parish youth ministries.
The Theology Together Program has four major components:
The CYMT will begin immediately to identify a date, location, and key leaders for the 2014 Missional Immersion Experience. We will distribute the details of how CYMT partner and alumni churches can participate as soon as they are available.
CYMT is proud to announce the expansion of our original initiative into Theology Together 2.0. CYMT aims to develop a curriculum to be used in local congregations and ministries. Taking what we have learned about engaging youth in deep theological reflection during missional experiences and embedding those processes into congregational youth ministries.
"I hope students come away from my courses with the ability to think more deeply, richly and theologically about their youth ministry practice. I think a lot of what happens in youth ministry happens unreflectively and can be deforming to young people, and my courses are intended to give students a theological framework for evaluating and reforming their youth ministry practice."
Of course, I want students to drink deeply from the academic readings, lectures and discussions, and I want them to be informed by the academics. But more than that, I want them to see that youth ministry is a calling of God, an important part of God’s mission in the world, one that should give them pride and evoke humility at the same time.