Perhaps an answer to your curriculum struggles, this workshop focuses on the Implicit curriculum – examining your values and how you set the space and time of your ministry. “Interact” is a trinity of elements that contribute to our holistic approach of Youth Ministry – cultivating community with youth, teaching them to think theologically, and empowering them to use their talents to respond to the needs of the world. We will share stories of success and failures and how we’ve learned to involve youth in exploring controversial topics and in sharing their gifts and talents to respond to the needs of our community.

Erin Betlej has 8 years (and counting) of youth ministry experience in a wide variety of settings ranging from urban and rural churches to functioning and dysfunctional congregations. She is also a hot yoga teacher, enjoys a good glass of bourbon and desires to continually create space for people of all ages to feel at home in their body, in their mind, and their spirit in order to encounter God more fully.

Shannon LeMaster-Smith is an ordained Deacon and serves as the Youth and Family Outreach Minister at Oak Hill UMC in Morganton, NC. She has 10+ years experience in youth ministry and especially loves creative problem solving, outside the box thinking, singing, puppies, rainbows, and laughing.

Prayer as Rest: Inviting Youth to Be Still

The longer I am in youth ministry, the more I am amazed at the stress, restlessness, and busyness in the lives of teenagers. It has hardly been surprising, therefore, to experience their openness and interest in prayer practices like the Prayer of Examen, breath prayers, praying through a labyrinth, and praying the Psalms. I believe young people are longing for ways to slow down, breathe, and be still, but too often the electricity of youth ministry fails to meet this need. Join me as we breathe new life into ancient prayer practices and wonder together how we might create sacred space for youth to be still so they might experience deeper connection with God, their neighbor, and their truest self.

Rev. Jeremy Bork studied Youth Ministry and Christian Education at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and received his M. Div from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI in May of 2017. Jeremy’s previous work in ministry includes youth ministry internships for RCA churches in Iowa and New York, serving as a leader in his college’s campus ministry, and working at Camp Fowler: an RCA/UCC hippie Jesus camp in the Adirondack Mountains. Jeremy currently serves as Minister for Youth at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders

You’ve probably heard the term “student leader” before. Maybe you’ve even wanted to develop student leaders in your congregation. But how do you go about doing so? In this seminar, we’ll explore a theological philosophy for student leadership. We’ll then investigate practical strategies for developing student leaders including how to choose and disciple student leaders, what roles they might have in your youth ministry, and how to help student leaders transition into leadership roles in the broader church.

Jen Bradbury serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus, and several other books. Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and the Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies.

Connect the Dots: How to connect mission trips with life back home

Both the beauty and the curse of a mission trip is that it happens away from home. Being removed from their ordinary lives allows students to encounter God in very real ways. The problem is, once students return from their mission trip, they often don’t know how to integrate the experience there with their lives at home. In this seminar, we’ll wrestle with the reasons for this disconnection before then exploring a variety of practical ways to connect the dots between life on the field and at home.

Jen Bradbury serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus, and several other books. Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and the Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies.

Telling Our Story

Have you ever heard someone tell a story by heart from scripture? It’s a totally different way to interact with our collective story! Join Rachel Doll to hear a story or two, and learn the basics of telling biblical stories to and with your youth.

Rachel Whaley Doll is a certified biblical storyteller and author, currently serving as Christian Educator at Winter Park Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC. She enjoys weaving her ukulele and storytelling into her work with children, youth, and adults.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Should youth workers be friends with young people? Many youth workers have been trained to see friendship as a mistake in youth ministry and to say, “I’m not your friend, I’m your youth pastor.” But what if friendship is actually at the heart of what youth ministry is all about? Here, we’ll rediscover the joy of friendship and its central role in the church’s ministry with young people.

Wes Ellis is a veteran youth worker and the Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Toms River, New Jersey. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland), researching in practical theology.

Rural Re-Membering in Youth Ministry

Many rural communities face issues of out-migration, de-industrialization, and disruption of community in the early twenty-first century. Youth ministry faces the challenge of balancing local community and the life goals of young people in these communities. A pedagogy of rural re-remembering provides the space and resources for churches to become the space for envisioning and creating new futures within these rural communities. This workshop provides examples and space to imagine and create your practices and actions within rural youth ministry.

Jonathan LeMaster-Smith is a PhD candidate in Christian Education and Congregational studies and adjunct professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He lives in Morganton, North Carolina with his wife Shannon and their two dogs, Jupiter and Biscuit.

Youth Ministry with Adopted Kids

Adoption: What is it? How do we talk about? Do we talk about it? Does the language matter? All of these and many more are commonly asked and thought about questions when it comes to adoption. These questions are very important within the context of church and ministry as well. If we are to be inclusive in the way we do ministry, it is worth having the conversation about how we talk about adoption and how we minister to families and youth whose lives are touched by adoption. Join us as we think about this together.

Jay Kiel serves as as Director of Youth Ministry at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Middleton, WI. Jay and his wife, Stephanie, met both of their kids through adoption and their hearts beat with passion for talking about and learning about adoption.

Sick and Tired: Incorporating Rhythms of Rest and Grace

As leaders and adults, we experience the exhaustion of life day in and day out; the bills, the family dynamics, and the thousands of details that come with being in ministry. And then we look outside our walls and see the systemic injustice, political division, and the radical exclusion within our country. As leaders, when we are tired, exhausted, or burned out, it has a direct effect on those who we are leading…but ask any current middle school or high schooler, they too are feeling the stress and fatigue as well. In my session, I won’t give answers, solutions, or even guarantees that the tiredness, stress, and burnout will cease. However, I’d like to offer a space where we can rest, learn how to include spiritual practices that are both life giving for the leaders as well as those being led, and dream up how to incorporate rhythms of rest and grace.

Rev. Marcy Rudins is currently apart of the Albany Synod Fellowship Program as a fellow at Delmar Reformed Church in Delmar, New York. A part of my calling and passion is to offer spaces for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds to experience their identity as the Beloved. This often looks like preaching, offering spiritual direction and pastoral care, or leading retreats. I am an avid writer, so I also enjoy writing blog posts, devotionals, as well as poetry. I would describe myself as a contemplative, advocate, a wannabe foodie, kayaker, poet, and belly laugher.

The Enneagram and Youth Ministry

For centuries many have found the Enneagram useful in growing spiritually. Young people who walk through our doors have a wide array of passions, needs, and dreams.  These diverse needs are rarely recognized in the one-dimensional discipleship path we offer them. Discipleship shouldn’t be one size fits all. The Enneagram is a constructive tool for creating youth ministry environments where all types of people/personalities can grow in their journey with God. Together we will explore what the Enneagram is, how it can help us create opportunities/content for spiritual engagement with a variety of personalities, and how being self-aware of our own personality type can both enrich and limit the youth ministries we lead.

Rev. Seth Vopat serves on the ministry team at Lee’s Summit Christian Church (a Disciples of Christ congregation) in the Kansas City metro. He has worked in youth ministry for over fifteen years. He graduated from Central Baptist Theological Seminary with an M.Div. and has a Certificate in Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. Seth and his wife Beth and their two boys, Brayden and Owen, love to travel and explore new places.