Back in the “good ole days” it was relatively easy to find and call someone to serve on a congregation’s staff as its Christian Education Director or Minister. And many mid- to large-size congregations could also afford a youth minister. Seminaries had degrees and programs that nurtured those who were called to this ministry to become knowledgeable, successful, and faithful with the children, youth, and families they served.
But those days are gone. With the shifts and changes the Church is experiencing today, the supply is matching the demand as local congregations find it more difficult to finance multiple staff positions. Thus most seminaries have shut down their Christian education and youth ministry degree programs making it difficult for churches to find qualified applicants for their faith formation staff positions.
I am familiar with only two progressive seminaries that offer a Master’s degree in Christian education — Princeton Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary. I am not familiar with any progressive seminaries with degree programs in youth ministry; however, Yale has a Youth Ministry Institute which offers a summer symposium and (free) monthly lecture series. Many congregations are finding that they need to hire untrained faith-filled people with good intentions and hope that they will find someone to help them or just figure it out themselves.
There is help available for you!
The Massachusetts Conference recognizes these deficits in faith formation leadership and provides a number of resources for our local churches to train and support those who are called to faith formation ministries, and those congregations seeking them:
Step 1: Download our “Seeking a Christian Educator or Youth Ministry Leader” and “Youth Ministry Handbook” to guide you in the process of finding and then supporting your faith formation staff person(s). These resources include position and job description worksheets, compensation guidelines, and other resources for covenanting and continued support. They will also prove to be very helpful for the faith formation staff person and Christian education & youth committee you may already have.
Step 2: Register your faith formation staff person(s) in one or both of our training and equipping programs:
Christian Educator Certification Program
Education for Effective Youth Ministry
and in a Christian Education (and Youth Ministry) Community of Practice
Step 3: Visit the Faith Formation Resources webpage to locate vetted and highly recommended conferences, events, training programs, networking opportunities, webinars, and links to resource lists, blogs, and websites in all areas of faith formation. I am also available to help you with any specific questions or issues that arise within your particular congregation.
The ministry of faith formation continues to shift and change, but here in the Massachusetts Conference it can thrive. Passing on the faith to the next generations will ultimately be the most important ministry in your congregation!
Debbie Gline Allen is the part-time Associate for Faith Formation & Youth Ministries for the Conference.