While I played host for a series of youth leader seminars at this year’s Kingdom Bound festival I also found myself being personally engaged and challenged. In the first seminar Joyce Wagner, owner and primary therapist of Restoration Counseling, spoke about how to avert suicide by properly assessing the warning signs and intervening on behalf of suicidal individuals. Then, Denis Johnson, Jr., pastor of creative arts, music and teaching at The Father’s House, led a conversation around the “selfie” phenomenon and what this obsessive trend tells us about ourselves and our view of God. And finally, Jay Trainer, founder of Infuzion, unpacked the three I’s of youth ministry—image, intimacy, identity—and challenged us to consider how our ministry goals can be shaped by these three cultural influences and keep us from pursuing life-giving relationships with God and one another.
Recently, I took our church’s teens on our annual amusement park trip—a cornerstone event in all of my youth ministries. I have to admit it though, I do not like amusement parks. Now, I do like aspects of the park, but the reason most people are there is what I do not like. Nothing about roller coasters excites me. I do not like rides that offer a slow incline only to drop participants almost straight down with the encouragement to lift hands in the air while screaming. I do not enjoy corkscrew turns, riding upside down, or rides that take a person to the highest heights just to drop them from those heights in a matter of seconds. How was this ever dubbed as amusement?
Three individuals highly influenced my spiritual growth from 7th-12th grade: Steve Bellavia, Craig Riportella, and Dan Schmidt. These youth pastors did far more than play games or pull pranks. Each one left an indelible mark on who I am today. As NES focuses on aspects of youth ministry, I wanted to share a few lessons I gleaned from these mentors.
A guest post by Doug Milne (M.Div. '10, Northeastern Seminary)