Cutting Edge Ministries

New youth and family ministry program addresses need

By the Rev. Kapp Johnson, J.D.

As I drove up the 101 towards San Francisco I was anticipating meeting the pastor in whose church I was scheduled to preach the next day for CLU Sunday. Having served in the parish for 22 years, I enjoyed the opportunity to get back into familiar territory and most importantly talk about California Lutheran University.

That evening I had dinner with the pastor and his family, and the pastor got to the point rather quickly. "We are looking for a youth and family minister," he offered. "Wouldn't it be great if CLU had a robust youth and family ministry program!" I couldn't contain myself! I was thrilled to share with him and his congregation CLU's new program in youth and family ministry.

"To have a university in the context of the Southwest provide practical, theological, and philosophical training for youth ministry professionals has the potential of transforming youth ministry in our region."

Larry Wagner, Senior Pastor
Ascension Lutheran Church
Thousand Oaks, California

CLU has had a minor in youth ministry for some time but now is moving in a new direction. The University is committed to its strategic relationship with the Church in all matters of higher education, including providing education and training for lay ministry. There are many leadership needs in the Church today, and none greater than leadership in youth and family ministry. CLU is answering that call.

The Youth and Family Ministry Program utilizes the University resources in a very creative way. The program is located in the Religion Department, which provides a theological core. Students are required to take classes in Bible (Old and New Testament), theology and/or church history, ethics, global religions and a Capstone course, which provides the students the opportunity to integrate theoretical studies with the practice of youth and family ministry.

The program also provides for a supervised internship under the leadership of a youth and family practitioner. In addition, the program utilizes the resources of the broader university curriculum. Students will be asked to take classes in communication, psychology, business, theatre arts and criminology — courses which are designed to help them understand the cultural and social dynamic of personhood and family life.

Along with curriculum, leadership will also play an important role in CLU's program. Currently, the Rev. Scott Maxwell-Doherty '76, campus co-pastor, is providing a critical leadership role. His pastoral ministry has focused on youth and family ministry, so CLU is well-positioned to provide outstanding leadership to a new generation of youth and family practitioners. In addition, the Rev. Arne Bergland, Director of Church Relations, will help with the direction of the program based on his 30 years of ministry and national leadership in youth ministry.

For long-term leadership, CLU is partnering with the Grand Canyon Synod to raise $1.5 million for an endowed chair in youth and family ministry. This chair will ensure that the Youth and Family Program at CLU is a vibrant and dynamic program for the Church in the 21st century. The agreement is to raise the funds over the next three to five years. While those funds are being raised, Maxwell-Doherty is teaching courses for those students at CLU who are anxious and excited about youth and family ministry now!

One of those students is Meghan Hernandez, a junior who is pursuing a major in business administration and a minor in religion with an emphasis in youth ministry. Hernandez, who is considering becoming a youth minister, says, "I love working with the youth in the Church and knowing that they are the future of the Church." Of the Introduction to Youth and Family Ministry course being taught by Maxwell-Doherty, she adds, "This is by far my most favorite class that I have taken here at CLU. The energy and eagerness in the class excites me to wake up in the morning."

So, a new era begins in the life of the University. As it continues to fulfill its mission to develop leaders, CLU will work with and for the Church to develop leadership in youth and family ministry as we live out our vocation as a university of the Church.

Kapp Johnson is an ELCA pastor and attorney with a joint appointment in the CLU School of Business and Department of Religion.

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