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Youth ministry “backpack” available online, free-of-charge (8/24/07)
First Christian Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, replaced its traditional communion table with this round one. Photo: The Intelligencer, Wheeling, W.Va.

By Robyn Graves, DisciplesWorld contributing writer

INDIANAPOLIS (8/24/07) — Through the collaborative effort of various Disciples and the careful contributions and editing of the Youth Ministry Commission (YMC), Disciples Home Missions recently began offering a comprehensive resource called the “Youth Ministry Backpack.”

This ‘backpack’ is really a 46-page downloadable resource, designed for youth leaders at smaller churches, especially those who are volunteers and are not seminary-trained.

“Our hope is that volunteers working with youth will feel more connected to a denomination that cares about youth ministry through this resource,” said Sunny Ridings, member of the YMC and associate minister of First Christian Church in Livingston, Tenn.

The YMC communicates through bi-monthly emails called “e-connections,” monthly phone conferences and face-to-face meetings once a year. YMC comes up with different ideas for youth ministry, fundraising and team building. Ideas like the ‘backpack’ are born through these kinds of communications.

The ‘backpack’ was introduced just before the 2007 General Assembly held July 21-25 in Fort Worth, Texas. During General Assembly, the resource was available at DHM’s booth.

Mike Snell, of Hillside Christian Church in Wichita, Kan., and the Youth Ministry Commission convener, was one of the people working the booth and was amazed at the response to the ‘backpack.’

“It has been so long since there was any type of denominational-produced resource for youth ministry,” Snell said. “So many of our churches have leaders were left to buy generic resources from a local Christian book store, if they even had that option. I was surprised at how many people expressed they were looking for something just like what had been produced in the ‘Volunteer Youth Ministry Backpack.’”

Amy Cates, one of the newer YMC members, came on board during the rewriting and revisioning stage of the ‘backpack.’

As an associate pastor and someone who oversees the youth ministry at First ChristianChurch in Tullahoma, Tenn., Cates has copied sections of the ‘backpack’ to pass along to the youth sponsors at her church.

“The YMC wants people to know that we are a resource for them and that they are
not alone in this. Through DHM and through the YMC we can give assistance and offer a good place to start learning,” said Cates.

Although the resource was designed specifically with volunteer youth ministers in mind, the YMC and DHM hope that anyone working with youth can benefit from the resource. This includes professional clergy, paid youth leaders, volunteer leaders, youth group sponsors, youth in leadership roles, camp counselors, Christian education committees and parents.

“I found many new ideas for my own ministry within the guide and I'm a seminary-trained pastor who has been in youth ministry for five years,” said Ridings, “We are always looking for ways to help those working in youth ministry, and this is one way we could see to do that.”

Another idea that the YMC came up with was developing a Constant Contact email list so that youth ministry workers could receive an email with ideas once or twice a month.

The Constant Contact email list is currently made up of youth workers from all over the country. Anyone willing to share their ideas about youth ministry is invited to contact Mike Snell at: mshillside@aol.com.

Both the ‘backpack’ and information on joining the email list can be found on DHM’s website. The ‘backpack’ can be downloaded for free, or CD and bound paper versions are available for $5. These can be ordered by contacting DHM at (888) 346-2631.