So back in March I attended the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference that was put on by the JoPa Group and hosted at Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago. Besides getting the opportunity to spend a few days in one of my favorite cities and practice some ‘urban mindfulness’, I was also able to hang out with a group of folks that I can definitely call my ‘people’. I’ve been to more youth ministry conferences than I can count, and I would say that this one was pretty much the best one I’ve ever attended. Besides the fact that I wasn’t irritated throughout it (normally I have to spend so much energy filtering what I am learning through a theological lens that is different than most folks), the conference challenged us with the idea that if we take youth ministry seriously, not just as a place where we entertain, babysit, or ‘hang out’ with teenagers, but as the place in which we can challenge the church to be more relevant, more theological, and more like Jesus, we must do some things differently—take more seriously what we teach, how we teach it, and frankly, put our money where our mouth is and get to it!
I definitely had a fire put under me when it comes to doing the kind of ministry that I know I am called to do—one that is progressive, that believes that youth can challenge the status-quo, and that youth are capable and clammering for an opportunity to make a difference in their communities and their congregations—and I feel grateful that I am in a congregation and a place where that is truly possible.
Tony Jones challenged us at the event to ‘write our books’ and to put our names out there, not for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of the progressive voice that often seems so hidden. So, this idea of a blog has been simmering for months (maybe years)—I’ve been talking about it forever and haven’t gotten things going, and in the past couple of months, there have been more and more instances of people talking about the need for more progressive voices in youth ministry and so it is time. So, here is the blog—an opportunity to keep the discussion going on what progressive youth ministry is, both in my current context, but also hopefully through the voices of other youth workers, Pastors, Deacons, etc. I am not the expert, but I am hoping this space can be a place to ask good questions, bring new voices and insights, and share resources with those who are interested in being a part of the conversation. I hope that you all enjoy this journey with me.