Course Summary

Leading Experiential Prayer and Spiritual Practices

Theologians, philosophers, and pastors examine the effects that habitual practices have on our lives and discuss the importance of prayer and spiritual practices as habits that orient us towards God. Various spiritual practices are explained, taught, and offered as potential ways to engage adolescents in experiential prayer.

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).

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.

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.

Father Michael Bird Michael Bird

Father Bird grew up in the city of Philadelphia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida as a teenager. He attended Swarthmore College where he studied History with a concentration in education. He taught history and coached three varsity sports for five years before attending General Theological Seminary in New York City. His first position after ordination was at St. Mark’s, New Canaan CT where he began as the Associate Rector for Youth and Family Ministry. Father Bird has been the rector of Christ Church since 2004. He says what’s special about this church is its deep commitment to building community, responsibility and a sense of God’s presence through music, liturgy and mission. Father Bird maintains an active presence in the community by serving as an advisor to many organizations and as an avid supporter of the arts and athletics. His next “big thing” will be working to improve youth ministry across the Diocese of New York, the Episcopal Church and hopefully across the larger Church as well.

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.

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).

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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