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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.