Training Modules

Cultivating Worshipful Youth

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This course explores the importance of worship for youth. Theologians and pastors explore different facets of worship, why we do these things in worship and how to best implement them in youth worship services.

Matt Croasmun Matthew Croasmun

Matt Croasmun is Associate Research Scholar and Director of the Life Worth Living Program at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Lecturer of Divinity & Humanities at Yale University. He began working with YCFC after completing his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (New Testament) at Yale in 2014. While a doctoral student, he and his wife, Hannah, planted and pastored the Elm City Vineyard Church, a dynamic, diverse, urban church in the heart of New Haven, CT. With deep grounding in both the church and the academy, Matt brings to all of his work a passion for the intersection of the life of faith and the life of the mind.

His main research interests lie in the Pauline Epistles, illuminated by various streams of contemporary philosophy of science, theological reflection, and critical theory. His dissertation, “The Body of Sin: An Emergent Account of Sin as a Cosmic Power in Romans 5-8,” tackles an age-old problem in New Testament scholarship: namely, how to understand the relationship between “sins” as human misdeeds and “Sin,” the cosmic tyrant, in the Epistle to the Romans. The dissertation deploys emergence in philosophy of science to describe the cosmic tyrant Sin as a real person emergent from a complex system of human sins. Matt was a recipient of the 2015 Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise for this work. His first book, The Emergence of Sin, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in July 2017.

Matt received his B.A. in Music from Yale College (MC ‘01) and an M.A.R. in Bible from Yale Divinity School (‘06). After his Divinity degree, he spent a summer at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, studying with the great African theologian, Kwame Bediako.

Matt’s deepest passion is for teaching—in both the church and the academy. He has taught New Testament Introduction in Yale College, served regularly as a teaching fellow at YDS, and has taught the Life Worth Living seminar in the Humanities program in Yale College, supported by YCFC, and designed and co-taught with Miroslav Volf the ”Christ and the Good Life” course at YDS.

In addition to planting and pastoring the Elm City Vineyard, Matt has served the Vineyard denomination in helping found and steer the Society of Vineyard Scholars, directing the first-ever Vineyard Seminarian Summit, and consulting with Vineyard leaders and pastors in the U.S. and Canada. He has served as guest preacher in Vineyard, Covenant, Presbyterian, Methodist, and non-denominational churches in the United States, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, and Ghana.

An advocate of interfaith dialogue, Matt has facilitated sacred text readings of the New Testament and Quran in partnership with local churches and mosques. He also serves as a faculty advisor for the Yale Humanist Community and the Life Worth Living Fellows.

Matt and his wife, Hannah, live in New Haven with their daughter, Junia. In his spare time, he loves playing and writing music as well as playing soccer, squash, and basketball.

Kyle David Bennett Kyle David Bennett

Kyle David Bennett is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Caldwell University in New Jersey, where he also directs the Spirituality and Leadership Institute, a think-tank and training center that focuses on spiritual formation and citizenship in North American democratic society. His first book, Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World (Brazos Press), is slated to release August 2017.

Dr. Frederick Edie Frederick Edie

Fred Edie grew up on the Isle of Hope just east of Savannah, Ga. He holds a B.A. degree from Furman University, an M.Div. from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. Edie is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has served congregations on both coasts in youth and educational ministries. At Duke Divinity School, Edie teaches courses in Christian Education, youth ministry, and practical theology. His research interests include exploring the relationships between Christian Worship and Christian identity, creating rich contexts for the formation of Christians, and constructing “full-bodied” epistemologies.

Edie’s book, Book, Bath, Table and Time, explores what goes on at Duke Youth Academy and, in particular, suggests how congregational youth ministries may benefit from attention to corporate worship as a crucial zone of formation for youth.

Edie is married and a parent to two teenagers. He professes something of an addiction to cycling.

Jamie Smith James K. A. Smith

James K. A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College, where he holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. Trained as a philosopher with a focus on contemporary French thought, Smith has expanded on that scholarly platform to become an engaged public intellectual and cultural critic. An award-winning author and widely-traveled speaker, he has emerged as a thought leader with a unique gift of translation, building bridges between the academy, society, and the church.

The author of a number of influential books, Smith also regularly writes for magazines and newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Slate, First Things, Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and The Hedgehog Review. He serves as editor-in-chief of Comment magazine.

He and his wife, Deanna, are elementary school (!) sweethearts with four children in college. Natives of Stratford, Ontario, they lived in Philadelphia and Los Angeles before settling in the Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids. They are committed urban dwellers who enjoy gardening, travel, wine with friends, and curling up on the couch with their two maltipoos, Daisy and Kirby.

Rev. Canon Chris Russell Chris Russell

Rev. Canon Chris Russell was schooled at a comprehensive school in Nottingham and after spending a year working at a church on a council estate in Birkenhead, went to Durham university where he did an undergraduate degree in Theology [1988-91]. He then went to work for Paul Boateng MP as a researcher [1991-93]. In 1993, he went to theological College to train for the Ordained Ministry at Ridley Hall. Whilst there he did an M Phil in Dogmatic Theology at Cambridge University. In 1996, he was ordained and served his title post at St Johns with Holy Trinity Deptford [Southwark]. Chris married Belinda in 1998. On the way to Reading, he served on staff at Soul Survivor Watford for a year, and in 2001 became vicar of St Laurence Reading. The church is in the centre of town and they began to work to the mandate of being a multi-generational community with a particular mission amongst young people. Chris’ First book, Ten Letters was published by DLT in 2012 and in July 2013, Chris was surprised, honoured and thrilled to be invited by Justin to serve him in this role as Adviser on Evangelism and Witness at Lambeth Palace. Chris & Belinda have three daughters [Hope, Jessie & Dora] and a very scruffy dog [Bernie]. He enjoys growing things [vegetables], chopping things [wood], listening to things [Dylan, Springsteen, Cash] and eating and drinking things in good company.

Alaina Kleinbeck Alaina Kleinbeck

Alaina Kleinbeck is Director of Youth Ministry Initiatives for the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation. Alaina has served youth ministries and organizations in suburban St. Louis, urban Houston, and Norway. She holds degrees from Concordia University Nebraska and Duke Divinity School. Before her time with the Duke Youth Academy, she was a Director of Christian Education working with middle school students.

Dr. Alemda Wright Almeda M. Wright

Professor Wright’s research focuses on African American religion, adolescent spiritual development, and the intersections of religion and public life. Prior to her arrival at Yale, she served for four years as assistant professor of religion and youth ministry at Pfeiffer University and, before that, from 2004 to 2009, was an adjunct faculty member and teaching assistant at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. At Candler, she also served as program director of the Wisdom of Youth Project for one year and in various positions over four years with the Youth Theological Initiative. She has served as a consultant to the Women’s Theological Center in Boston and has taught at several schools in the Greater Boston area, including Shady Hill School, the Young Achievers Science and Math Academy, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Open School. Professor Wright’s publications include a book she coedited with Mary Elizabeth Moore, Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World, and an issue of Practical Matters Journal that she edited. She has given presentations at a number of conferences, including the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, and delivered the keynote address at the Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference in Washington, D.C., in May 2012. Professor Wright is an ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches and has been on the ministerial staff of several churches, including Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Victory for the World United Church of Christ in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Rebecca Gonzalez Rebecca Gonzalez

Pastor Rebecca Gonzalez is one of the Founders and Directors of Power House Youth Ministries

David Ford headshot David F. Ford

Dr. David F. Ford is Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge and is Founding Director of Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme in the Centre for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies. He is the author of numerous books including: The Future of Christian Theology.

Dr. Andy Root Andrew Root

Dr. Andrew Root is the Carrie Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, USA. He writes and researches in areas of theology and youth ministry. His most recent books are The Grace of Dogs (Convergent, 2017), Faith Formation in a Secular Age (Baker, 2017), and Exploding Stars, Dead Dinosaurs, and Zombies: Youth Ministry in the Age of Science (Fortress Press, 2018).

Tom Troeger Thomas H. Troeger

Thomas H. Troeger is the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lantz Professor of Christian Communication at Yale Divinity School. Professor Troeger has written twenty books in the fields of preaching, poetry, hymnody and worship, is a frequent contributor to journals dedicated to these topics, and is a monthly columnist for Lectionary Homiletics and The American Organist. His most recent books include Wonder Reborn: Preaching on Hymns, Music and Poetry; God, You Made All Things for Singing: Hymn texts, anthems, and poems for a new millennium; So that All Might Know: Preaching that Engages the Whole Congregation (with Edward Everding); Preaching While the Church Is Under Reconstruction; Above the Moon Earth Rises: Hymn Texts, Anthems and Poems for a New Creation.

He is also a flutist and a poet whose work appears in the hymnals of most denominations and is frequently set as choral anthems. For three years Professor Troeger hosted the Season of Worship broadcast for Cokesbury, and he has led conferences and lectureships in worship and preaching throughout North America, as well as in Denmark, Holland, Australia, Japan, and Africa. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1970 and in the Episcopal Church in 1999, he is dually aligned with both traditions. He has served as national chaplain to the American Guild of Organists and is a former president of the Academy of Homiletics (the North American guild of scholars in homiletics) and the immediate past president of Societas Homiletica (the international guild of scholars in homiletics). He was awarded an honorary D.D. degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. Professor Troeger is a fellow of Silliman College.

Nyle Fort Nyle Fort

Nyle Fort is a minister, organizer, and scholar based in Newark, NJ. He received a BA in English from Morehouse College and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Nyle has worked in the fields of education, criminal justice, and youth development for nearly a decade in various capacities including Youth Pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, American Friends field worker at the Union County Juvenile Detention Center, and International Fellow at the St. Andrew Centre for Human Development in Southern India.

An activist committed to global transformative justice, Nyle brings his national experience and international lens to his local work. He recently travelled to Ferguson, Missouri to help build the Movement for Black Lives. Upon his return home, Nyle created 7 Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks, a liturgy commemorating the last words of black people killed by police and vigilantes. In addition, he established Newark Books and Breakfast, a monthly program providing free books and breakfast to local youth and families. Most recently, Nyle travelled to Amsterdam, historic Palestine, and the Vatican in the effort to build solidarity across social movements.

In addition to his organizing work, Nyle has spoken at various academic, cultural, and religious institutions including Harvard University, University of Amsterdam, the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Center (former Audubon Ballroom), and the Riverside Church. His writings are featured in several academic presses including Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy and Socialism and Democracy as well as various popular media outlets including The Guardian, The Nation, and The Root – where he made its 2015 100 list alongside Kendrick Lamar and Ta-nehisi Coates. Nyle is currently a Ph.D student in Religion and African American studies at Princeton University and a Ford Pre-Doctoral Fellow.

Dr. Yolanda Smith Yolanda Smith

Yolanda Smith was educated at three different institutions. She remained in her home state for her undergraduate training and earned her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. She then headed east and earned an M.Div. from Virginia Theological Seminary (1990) before returning to the West where she completed her education by earning a M.A. and Ph.D. in theology at Claremont (1997).

She joined the YDS faculty as a visiting assistant professor in Christian education in 2000. She became member of the core faculty as an assistant professor in 2002, serving in this capacity until 2008 when a bout with cancer forced her to change directions. On disability, she continued to serve YDS part-time as a research scholar and a lecturer. She was able to teach at least one course each year through the 2014-2015 academic year. She was recognized by her peers in the profession when she was elected president of the Religious Education Association (2012-2013).

Tony Campolo Tony Campolo

Dr. Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and a former faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization which he founded to create and support programs serving needy communities. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the progressive Christian movement, Red Letter Christians as well as, for the Campolo Center for Ministry, a program which provides support to those the church has called to full-time ministry. He has written more than 35 books and can be found blogging regularly on tonycampolo.org and redletterchristians.org. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia and have two children and four grandchildren.

Shane Claiborne Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author, renowned activist, sought-after speaker, and self-proclaimed “recovering sinner.” Shane writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author of numerous books including The Irresistible Revolution, Jesus for President, and his newest book, Executing Grace (June 2016). He is the visionary founder of The Simple Way in Philadelphia, and director of Red Letter Christians. His work has been featured in Fox News, Esquire, SPIN, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN.

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