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National Conference on Youth Ministries puts focus on families

Josh Stephens, a former youth minister who serves as dean of students at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, prays at the National Conference on Youth Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

Blogging live from Colorado Springs, Colo.
With the beautiful Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, Colorado Springs this week welcomed hundreds of youth ministers from Churches of Christ.
They’re here for the annual National Conference on Youth Ministries (NCYM), which features prominent speakers from within our fellowship as well as leading thinkers and experts from the wider world of evangelical Christianity.
“We are really concentrating on family this year, in an attempt to turn what has been called conventional youth ministry into a more generational approach to doing ministry,” said Dudley Chancey, an NCYM executive board member and a youth ministry professor at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. (See a recent Christian Chronicle story on family ministry.)
In making announcements Wednesday night, Josh Stephens, a former youth minister who serves as dean of students at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, joked that the NCYM’s “focus on the family” should not be confused with Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family.
I attended a session Wednesday afternoon by Eric Fridge, family life minister of First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land, Texas, on how implementing family ministry can help youth ministers do their jobs better.
Often, Fridge said, youth ministries have made it easy for parents to abdicate their crucial role in raising teenagers of strong Christian faith. “(We’ve said), ‘We’ll teach them. We’ll provide activities. We’ll help them discover their spiritual.gif?Action=thumbnail&Width=460&algorithm=proportionalts. … And then when they’ve graduated, we’ll give them back to you.'”
But Fridge said, “If parents don’t feel like a critical part of their child’s spiritual life, then we’ve missed the point.”
This is my first time to cover NCYM.
I’ve enjoyed meeting young youth ministers such as Charlie Sells, youth minister of the Argyle Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Fla., and Jenna Lupo, youth activities coordinator for the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, Ala.

Reggie Joyner uses visual aids as he addresses participants at the National Conference on Youth Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colo. Joiner is founder and CEO of Orange, also known as The reThink Group, a nonprofit organization that helps churches and parents maximize their influence on the spiritual growth of the next generation. (Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.)

I’ve also enjoyed connecting with veteran youth ministers such as Jon Justice from the Warrenton Church of Christ in northern Virginia and Johnny Markam from the College Hills Church of Christ in Lebanon, Tenn.
I’m leaving out the names of a number of other youth ministers that I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing this week for future Chronicle stories. I do want to mention Brandon Baker, youth minister of the Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple, Texas. Brandon is tweeting from NCYM this week (as are some others). That’s how we arranged to go to dinner Wednesday night, and it was wonderful spending time with Brandon and his wife, Heidi.
The Bakers have close ties to the Impact Houston Church of Christ and minister/elder Charlie Middlebrook, who helped start the work in 1987 with a goal of reaching out to the poor, racially diverse heart of the city. Middlebrook suffered a massive stroke this week, and Gary Cochran, singles minister of the Prestoncrest Church of Christ in Dallas, said a special prayer for him at the conclusion of Wednesday night’s NCYM keynote session.
Look for coverage of NCYM in a future print edition of the Chronicle. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment, particularly if you’re a youth minister attending this week’s conference and would like to share thoughts or insights from NCYM.

  • Feedback
    Was there any training/resources on including teens with special needs in the youth group? Our church is needing to connect with others who have been doing that. Thanks.
    Debbi Gray
    January, 6 2011

    It is not the responsibility of a youth minister to disciple the children of faithful Christians. Who on Earth thought it was appropriate to put a 22 year old in charge of the spiritual growth of teens and pre-teens? It is the parents’ role – specifically the father. Until the church patterns its ministry to youth according to Scripture, it will not be successful.
    We spend more money, create more programs, pour in the creativity, but the statistics prove that what we are doing is not working. A large, large percentage of young people are leaving the church. Popular book by Ken Ham, “Already Gone”, is saying just that – they are already gone while sitting in the pews.
    Fathers, spend time with your children reading/explaining God’s word. Teach your children the Gospel. (Christ crucified) Don’t assume they are getting it at church services and Bible classes.
    I applaud those who are trying to go back to the “generational approach”.
    January, 7 2011

    Continue the good work for your labor will not be in vain in the Lord
    January, 8 2011

    I agree with you it is not the youth minister’s job to be responsible for the spiritual well-being of those they are leading, and that job falls, ultimately and naturally, in the role of the teen’s parents. I also agree more time is needed experiencing God’s word together as a family…digging into the scriptures, probing the depths of the mysteries and awe of our Creator, questioning and wrestling with the text together as a family, as well as receiving assurance that the Trinity is with us. Amongst us. Living and active. Yes, that is much needed in the families.
    With that being said, the largest breakdown with teens that is causing so many to leave the church isn’t that they haven’t heard the Gospel or never had the word of God explained, but rather, they haven’t seen the Good News lived out within their respective fellowships. Within their youth groups. And, most importantly and MOST influential, within their families. The Gospel, the way they see it from their examples, doesn’t change much.
    So, until we as His body start taking the Gospel seriously and allow it to impact and infiltrate ALL of our life, people (as statistics across Christendom point not only to teens leaving) will continue to leave.
    January, 8 2011

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