YM Classroom: Theological Foundations for Youth Ministry

BY: Dietrich Kirk


Theological Foundations for Youth Ministry is one of our core Master of Arts in Youth Ministry courses. Just one day in Theological Foundations will dismiss the idea that youth ministry is simply about fun, games, and devotionals.

This course introduces students to youth ministry as a practical theological discipline and guides them toward developing and articulating their own theological rationales for the practice of youth ministry. With a shared understanding that our theological commitments shape our ministry with young people, students examine various theological starting points for the art and practice of youth ministry.

The course is rooted in a practical theological framework that understands four tasks of practical theological reflection: descriptive-empirical, interpretive, normative-theological, and pragmatic. Seen as a hermeneutical circle, each of these moments of practical theology sheds light on the others as they work together to lead us toward more faithful action in the church and society.

Our objectives for this course are for each student to be able to:

  1. Articulate a basic understanding of practical theology and identify youth ministry within this broad framework.
  2. Exhibit proficiency in practical theological reflection for the revision of youth ministry praxis.
  3. Develop a vision for youth ministry built on theological foundations emerging from one’s particular context and commitments.

If you are still wondering what all that means, our residents spend a semester diving deeply into the following theological topics:

Doctrine of God
Soteriology (Salvation)
Sin & Sanctification
Forgiveness & Reconciliation
Ecclesiology & Mission (Church)
Eschatology (End Times)

Each student does deep theological reflection on each of these ideas in light of his or her work with youth. Students are then challenged to think about how this theological constructs affect the practice of youth ministry in their specific contexts. Their final project is to create a vision for youth ministry built on their theological foundations.

Work in this course is essential because our practice of ministry should always flows out of our theology. Dr. Andrew Zirschky, our youth ministry professor and CYMT’s academic director, says “Without a theological foundation, the practice of youth ministry is merely applied psychology or educational theory, rather than vital Christian ministry. This course prepares graduate residents to undertake youth ministry that flows from and to the very action of God.”

CYMT’s youth ministry courses don’t just teach our graduate residents how to play games or teach a Bible study. Below are links to some of the theological ideas that three of our residents wrestled with in Theological Foundations.

Participating in Hope: The Eschatology of Youth Ministry by Andrew Mochrie
The Church as a Community of Hope and Honesty by Neal Wilkinson
Forgiveness and Reconciliation Within the Church Universal by Randy Knighten


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