Theological Forums: Adam English
We’re excited to introduce Adam English as one of our panelists for the Theology Forum! Adam currently works as professor of theology and philosophy at Campbell University Divinity School in North Carolina. He spends a lot of time with older kids these days, but previously served as a youth and children's minister in two churches and still invests in the children's program at his home church in Buies Creek, NC.
In preparation for NYWC 2011, we asked Adam some questions about his in youth ministry experiences:
How did you first get involved with youth ministry?
When I was in college, a church hired me to work with their youth and children part-time. At the time, I didn't know what I was getting into, but now what keeps pulling me
back to youth ministry is the excitement of being the first one to share the Christian message with someone. When you work with youth and children, you often are the first one to tell them the basic Bible stories and the first one to introduce the most important ideas and questions of the faith. Everything is exciting, new, and fresh.
What struggles have you experienced in youth ministry?
When I lived in Fort Worth, TX, two eighth grade girls in my youth group decided to take mail from a whole string of mailboxes in the neighborhood. This went on for a couple of weeks before they were caught. They didn't open any of the mail that I know of, they just piled it up in their rooms. Why? No reason. The teenage years are by definition a time of struggle, conflict and angst –the teen is between adult and child, family and freedom, church and world, carnal knowledge and innocence. I don't know a lot of people who would choose to relive their early teenage years with its mood swings and physical changes and peer pressure and family tensions, which is precisely why youth ministry is so critical. Some of the most formative experiences with God (and without God!) happen in one's teens.
How can youth workers incorporate serious theology as a routine part of their ministry?
Don't baby-talk. Youth can tell when adults are being condescending. There is no need to oversimplify and avoid big issues. Youth appreciate adults who are honest, who ask hard questions and expect serious answers. So much of what youth are spoon-fed is entertainment. Many of them are hungry for something richer and more substantive. Plan for serious theology. Make it part of the routine. This might mean cutting out a game or activity and instead leaving room for open discussions. But don't leave open discussions open-ended. Always come with well-formed questions and thoughts to direct and guide and ignite the conversation.
What’s your most embarrassing or amusing youth ministry experience?
Youth Ministry Don't #354: If you ever get permission to paint your youth meeting room, don't splatter paint with bright colors on the ceiling, fixtures and floor, especially when the space is also used as a bridal room. When I had this opportunity with my group, we made a junior high mess. Let's just say it was not a professional job. The church ended up repainting the whole room after a couple of months.
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