Are You Certified?
The Youthworker Movement just participated in a 2-day consultation at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) in Nashville along with representatives from 10 UMC Seminaries and 3 Colleges and Universities that offer 1 or more of the classes to be certified in one of the ten specialized ministries. Persons can be certified in: Ministry with the Poor, Urban Ministry, Older Adult Ministry, Evangelism, Spiritual Formation, Children’s Ministry, Music Ministry, Christian Education, Youth Ministry (my personal favorite!), and Camping and Retreat Ministry.
Certification in Youth Ministry is a wonderful way to be credentialed in Youthwork in the United Methodist Church. It does not matter what your educational background is, you can enter into the correct program venue and be certified. The more Youthworkers that are certified, the more we will raise the bar of our craft being taken seriously as a professional call in ministry and not just a stepping stone toward perceived “real” ministry. It also has the side benefit of putting more Theological and Biblical tools in our Youthworker toolkits so that we can do a better job of helping to make disciples for the transformation of the world. It is also one of the UMC’s Four Areas of Focus: Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.
An equally important role that the classes provide is a cohort of Youthworkers who come together across Conference boundaries for learning but the strength of the network built is exponentially greater than the learning provided. We all need each other!
I have had the honor and privilege to teach many great Youthworkers over the last 9 years through the Youth Ministry Certification Class at Perkins School of Theology held each year in January during PSYM (Perkins School of Youth Ministry). When I first started teaching we consistently had 5-6 students each year. The pre-class preparation of reading and written assignments for grades is difficult to fit into a Youthworker’s normal ministry schedule. Giving 7 days to class, nightly covenant groups, and a final project also make thinking about participating a bit overwhelming.
It also takes about 5 years to finish the process (taking 1 of 5 classes per year along with accruing the experience between classes). With the current turnover rate in Youthwork being somewhere between 2 and 4 years few have the time to actually finish this process successfully.
Each student takes 5 basic classes over 5 years: 1) Teaching Biblical Faith, 2) Teaching Theology, 3) Ministry With Youth, 4) Adolescent World, 5) United Methodist Studies.
Even with all of these perceived roadblocks we still have several people finish the process each year through the classes we offer at Perkins. Students include full-time and part-time paid Youthworkers and also Volunteer Youthworkers. While we started with a handful of students each year, this past year we had 36 students in class! So we are making an impact as we teach and connect with more and more Youthworkers. I know there are equally good programs of Youth Ministry Certification in other institutions besides Perkins. There is a place for you to start the process and I would be happy to help connect you to the best match for your context.
A few statistics: since they started tracking enrollment in 1997- 433 people have started the process and since 1989 there have been 204 people certified in Youth Ministry in the UMC. Once certified, a Youthworker has to renew their Certification every 2-years with The Board of Ministry in their Annual Conference. We know a significant number of the 204 people have not kept their renewals up.
I share these statistics in order to share a dream that I have (and I pray that my dream is in alignment with God’s dream for Youthworkers). Out of our Youthworker Movement membership base of 4,500 Youthworkers, what if 10% became certified EACH YEAR? Imagine how quickly we could raise the bar of Youthwork with 450 newly certified folks coming before the Annual Conferences each year. Imagine having 450 UMC Youthworkers ready to be coaches and trainers all across the country to lead network meetings, give pastoral care to hurting Youthworkers, and share resources. Imagine that instead of declining Conference budgets for Youth Ministry and Local Church cutbacks we would having increasing budgets and MORE Youth in Churches because there are so many more well-trained Youthworkers available to make a difference in how people think about our craft. Imagine the ability to raise up generations of Young People who have been nurtured in such a way that we have actually made disciples for the transformation of the world. Imagine that because of the ministry of these great Certified Youthworkers we have developed even more principled Christian leaders for the church and the world.
I dream that this would be a game changer. I dream that these persons Certified in Youth Ministry in the UMC could support an even great number of the Youthworkers in their geographic area in the typical local church that has under 100 members and has a volunteer Youthworker doing an incredibly faithful job with few resources.
One final note: I want to be clear that I know good and well there are great and wonderful Youthworkers who won’t or can’t take the time or that don’t have the finacial resources to become Certified. In no way am I trying to imply that somehow certified Youthworkers are the ultimate goal. Clearly Jesus was not certified by the UMC but he seemed to do a great job with that Youth Group of 12 that he had. You get my point.
If you want to know more or you need help navigating the steps to get started, I am here to help and serve you in the process. Feel free to drop me a note or give me a call.
Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison