Beginning of the 10th Year of Youth Ministry Training

The Center for Youth Ministry at the Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary just started its 10th year of training youth workers. That’s right. Last week, Janell and I celebrated our 11th year of living in Mexico, and Randy Smith, the President of Youth Ministry International, was here to help us begin the new year at the Seminary.

Randy came to speak at the convocation service at the Seminary and stayed to co-teach a youth ministry class at the Seminary. It was a good class, and we are excited about what this year holds for us as a family and for the youth ministry program here in Mexico. We have three new students studying youth ministry at the Seminary, and they are really good guys. I’ll post a picture of them soon. The three new students matches the size of our largest group of new students. That may not sound like a lot, but in a culture where youth ministry is not common, it is a great new group. They also make up 25% of the incoming freshmen, so the number is good.

It’s hard to believe that this is the 10th year of classes at this institution. That means I have been teaching youth ministry for a decade. We have seen some advances, and I believe that youth ministry is growing faster than ever in Latin America.

Maybe sometime this year we will be able to officially celebrate the 10 years of training we have been doing, inviting all of the alumni back to celebrate with us would be fun.

YMI Biennial Summit in Athens, Greece

Last week, the 2014 Youth Ministry International Summit took place at the Greek Bible Institute in Athens, Greece. Every two years we invite all of our trainers from around the world and their families to a meeting for encouragement, strategy, and prayer. It has always been a powerful time, and this year was no different.

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Semi Formal Youth Ministry Training in Mexico

We have been training youth workers in Mexico for more than 10 years, and the Bachelor’s degree program has been met with a lot of excitement but at the same time difficulty because of the fact that it is a full time program that requires studies from 7 AM until 3 PM ever weekday (except Monday).

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Training Trainers to Train Trainers

Last January we started a Master’s in Youth Ministry degree program at the Seminary here. We had two visiting professors come and teach for two weeks. Last week, we had the next two classes in the series, and it went great.

The visiting professor is a pastor from Cuba that graduated from the MA there a few years ago. He is now studying a Doctorate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. The goal of Youth Ministry International is to train trainers, and this is exactly the kind of ministry multiplication we are constantly seeking to develop as an organization.

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Examples in 3 John

The letter of 3 John to Gaius is often overlooked simply because of its size, but the message that it teaches is one that I have experienced time and time again throughout my ministry.

As a missionary, I often visit new places where the only connection I have with the people there is the fact that we are believers. Their hospitality often reminds me of John’s commendation of Gaius and the way that he supported the messengers in their journey.

The contrast between the way that Gaius acts and the way that Diotrephes acts is a strong word of teaching for us as we minister. We are to think of others and help others instead of putting ourselves first, and we are to accept God’s servants instead of refusing to welcome them in a manner “worthy of God.”

As I read and study 3 John, I am reminded of the need to be humble, seek the good of those who are doing God’s work, and be warned, careful to not put myself first and talking against others.

Once again, in this short letter, we see the way the New Testament puts out good examples for us to imitate and poor examples for us to avoid. These two men, Gaius and Diotrephes, are great examples for us as we seek to interact with others.

What strikes you about 3 John?

The Heart of the Youth Leader

A few weeks ago we had the annual National Youth Workers' Summit in Mexico City. It was a great time as more than 400 youth leaders from all over the country came to be inspired and trained to do better ministry to youth and adolescents in this country.

I taught a workshop and a super course. My workshop was titled, “10 Traps of Youth Ministry and How to Avoid Them,” and my Super Course was called, “The Heart of the Youth Leader.” A friend of mine asked if I had notes on the Heart of the Youth Leader in English. I don't, but below I summarize the main points of my talk.

Basically, I did a study of King David's heart based on what we see in the book of Psalms. After analyzing the verses in which he describes his heart, I categorized them into 7 qualities of the heart of the leader. Here they are:

The Heart of the Youth Leader

  1. Contains and Obeys the Word of God.
  2. Trusting and Firm.
  3. Pure and Clean.
  4. Broken.
  5. Full of Worship.
  6. Humble.
  7. Wise.

Each of these qualities have many verses that go with them. I have included a few. I will probably develop this idea even further one day, but I think it is important that youth leaders understand how important it is to guard their hearts.

My prayer is that this material will have impacted the lives of those who heard it to the point that they will think about the state of their heart before they think about how they are ministering to young people in their church.


Results of Formal Youth Ministry Training

When we started with Youth Ministry International, the main focus of the youth ministry training that they were involved in was informal, seminars and conferences to help local church youth workers. YMI trainers would also informally mentor local church youth workers in various countries, but there was very little formal structure beyond the level one or level two seminars that they would teach.

All of that changed when we were invited both in the Ukraine as well as Mexico to begin formal youth ministry training programs in Seminaries.

Of course, for me, that meant that I would begin my missionary work as a professor at the Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary. The formal aspect of the youth ministry training has provided some benefits that weren’t present in the informal strategy that we were employing as an organization before the change. Here’s what I think happens when we train youth workers at the formal level.

  1. Elevate the view of youth work: the local church comes to see youth work as more than just entertaining young people that anyone can do. In many cases it has come to be seen as an important ministry within the local church with trained leaders who come alongside the parents to disciple the youth of their communities.
  2. Increase the quality of local church youth ministry: obviously, with better training comes better quality ministry. That is not to say that those with no training cannot effectively minister, but the more we reflect with youth workers on how to better minister to young people, the more effective the youth ministry becomes in the local church.
  3. Produce local experts on the subject of youth ministry: again, with formal academic work comes an elevated thinking process on the subject, and after spending time in a classroom thinking about and discussing youth ministry, as well as doing projects that require work, our students become the local experts in the field of youth ministry.
  4. Multiply ministry: Every one of our graduates in Latin America is involved in training others. The “experts” are expected to teach others what they have learned, and this multiplies the ministry of training because they want to teach others.
  5. Evaluation of theories and practices: when you only go in for one weekend and do a youth ministry training event, you have little interaction and evaluation of the best practices and theories in ministry. At least in a four year bachelor’s degree program (or more if you are the professor), you can evaluate the principles and practices of youth ministry and have a long haul mentality of what works in youth ministry.

Over the next 15 years, our Latin America team hopes to begin 60 formal youth ministry programs in Latin America, which will have the capacity to graduate and certify over 3,500 local church youth pastors.

Please join us in prayer as we continue to train youth workers at both the formal and informal level.

Check out the video below of the graduates from our formal training programs around the world.

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