Words by Marv Penner

 The challenges being faced by church and community youth workers have never been greater. That’s because the challenges being faced by teenagers and young adults in our culture have never been greater. Caring for teenagers and young adults in this climate of spiritual apathy, social media obsession, misplaced priorities, moral lassitude, violence, uncertainty, anxiety, depression, and despair has become a highly specialized vocational pursuit. Preparing people for ministry to this generation is a task the church must take seriously.

As Abraham Lincoln said in 1862, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

It is time to courageously and creatively rethink the way we prepare men and women for vocational youth ministry. The traditional, front-loaded, content-heavy college classroom model appears to have run its course. However, the need for young people to be called to a sustainable faith and a life of discipleship is greater than ever. To this end, a group of educators, denominations, ministry organizations, camps, and academic institutions have collaborated in a bold new initiative for raising up a new breed of “next generation” ministers. The Coalition for Youth Ministry Excellence (CYME) is directed by Dr. Marv Penner, who brings decades of ministry training experience and operates under the umbrella of the Canadian Youth Workers Community and Truth Matters Ministries. The program is affordable, accessible, practical, theologically infused, and relationally rich.

“It is time to courageously and creatively rethink the way we prepare men and women for vocational youth ministry.”

CYME offers a two-year immersive experiential training program for vocational level equipping of youth, young adult, and family ministry specialists. This means that every student in the program is “doing youth ministry while they are learning to do youth ministry.” It is designed to blend the best of academic rigor and excellence with the many benefits of mentored experiential integration in a missional faith community. Healthy local churches, community youth ministries, camps and Christian schools serve as the “laboratories,” their neighbourhoods and communities are the “campuses.” Learners are purposefully guided by two on-site mentors—a spiritual director who is primarily concerned with the spiritual formation of the student and a skills and leadership coach who guides the apprentice through a carefully structured program of hands-on “real world” learning. 

Eight, quarterly one-week modular classes punctuate the two-year apprenticeship as all the learners gather as a cohort to sit under the teaching of the finest faculty in the disciplines of next generation ministry. The entire program is accredited by the Association of Biblical Higher Education and the Association of Theological Schools through partnerships with a number of academic institutions across Canada. Students apply the credits earned through the Coalition program to either a Bachelors or Masters degree from the partner institution they have chosen. A certificate track is also available for students who choose not to pursue a degree.

The program has proven to be particularly attractive to several specific categories of students and ministry organizations. A prime example would be churches who are raising up youth leaders from within their own ranks. Often these outstanding and highly motivated leaders have little or no formal training, and don’t have the luxury of leaving their homes, families, or ministries to attend a three or four-year residential academic program. The Coalition allows them to stay fully engaged in ministry, while they are earning their academic credits.  Another group who benefits from the training are those involved in community or street-level youth ministries, such as Young Life or Youth Unlimited/YFC.  Many of the staff members in these organizations have “come up through the ranks” and have taken on increasing levels of leadership responsibility until they find themselves serving full-time without ever having had the opportunity to go to college. A third, and very significant group who have found their way into the program are veteran youth workers who earned a Bachelor’s degree before they began in ministry and are now sensing the need to sharpen their ministry tools and earn a Master’s degree in the process. One of the great bonuses of the program is this synergy that is created when a diverse group of students like this gets together to share the learning experience. 

Our best learning always takes place at the point of application. Because all Coalition students are engaged in full-time ministry, they have the opportunity to apply what they encounter in the classroom immediately. One student said, “The things I put in my class notes on Friday I put into practice on Saturday.”  It is this process of immediate application that gives the program its greatest strength. 

The four classroom gatherings each year take place in the beautiful city of Kelowna, B.C.  Students have been known to tack on a few days for skiing in the winter and golfing, hiking, or mountain biking in the other three seasons.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about the Coalition and how it might fit into your plans for your ministry development, visit www.coalitionforministry.com, fill in the get-acquainted form and someone from the program will get in touch.