DisciplesWorld magazine ceased publication in early 2010.
Archives of the online articles and Disciples news items are housed here.
DisciplesWorld archives are provided by Disciples of Christ Historical Society

Below is a selection from the Disciples World archives:

Networks hold promise for helping youth ministry thrive
Networks hold promise for helping youth ministry thrive

INDIANAPOLIS — Youth and youth leaders within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are finding ways to connect with each other in ministry and fellowship, thanks to denominational and regional networks — some established, some new.

But challenges continue as regions and congregations look for ways to serve youth in times of tighter budgets.

The church struggled to meet the needs of youth, youth ministers, and youth leaders after Disciples Home Missions (DHM) eliminated the full-time staff position for youth ministries, held by Randy Kuss, in 2003. DHM also cut the position for young adult ministries (see DisciplesWorld online article, 8/2/03, search by date).

DHM created a Youth Ministry Commission to fill the gap in resourcing congregations. But early efforts fell short, and several commission members resigned, said Lee Yates, a Kentucky minister who served on the commission.

Youth also questioned the denomination’s commitment in the months after the youth ministry position was cut. The General Youth Council (GYC), made up primarily of Disciples youth, works with DHM on the quadrennial International Christian Youth Fellowship (ICYF) gathering and on youth-related events for biennial General Assemblies. From the time Kuss' position was eliminated until late 2007, the Youth Ministry Commission and the GYC had two different points of contact within DHM.

Today, Tod Iseminger, DHM’s minister of leader development, is responsible for working with both.

Last summer’s ICYF conference at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., showed youth ministry is still vital, Iseminger said. The event was well-attended by youth, and a number of youth ministers and adult leaders were involved. Disciples General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins spent several days with youth during the conference.

Iseminger is also looking forward to the Youth Ministry Backpack Conference June 12–14 at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, which will provide training and resources for youth ministers.

Another bright spot is the Disciples Youth Ministry Network (DYMN), whose purpose is to give youth ministers and leaders an opportunity to “go deeper” with youth ministry — hearing from leading experts in the field, sharing fellowship with others doing the same kind of work, and tending to their own spiritual needs in a retreat environment, said member Kuss, who now leads retreats for youth leaders and ministers.

DYMN held its first conference for youth ministers in 2008. This year’s conference, in March, took place at a retreat center in Waverly, Ga. The network will hold its 2010 event in Scottsdale, Ariz. Five regions — Upper Midwest, Kansas, Kentucky, Great River, and Southwest — are DYMN partners and have helped with funding, Kuss said.

While many regions have had to downsize, the number of real and virtual networks for youth and youth ministers has grown.

Bill Spangler-Dunning, regional minister for the Upper Midwest, has seen the church move from a “hub model” to a “web model” based on interconnected relationships. In addition to helping start DYMN, he served on the first Youth Ministry Commission and as an adult volunteer on the General Youth Council.

Because Disciples tend to be independent, the web model may be a better fit in the long run, he said.

Kentucky minister Yates sees value in the denomination's regrouping to serve youth and youth ministers. “In some ways … we’ve seen everybody trying to figure out how to do ministry in new ways — not just youth ministry,” Yates said.