Augsburg News

News Archives - 1998

First Youth and Family Ministry Leadership Conference at Augsburg College

Draws over 150 church leaders; conference registration expected to double in 1999

Jul. 31 1998

More than 150 church leaders attended the Youth and Family Institute's first-ever Youth and Family Ministry Leadership Conference from July 20-24 on the Augsburg campus.

The ecumenical conference, titled "Building the Church for the 21st Century," attracted representatives from 15 national church bodies, with backgrounds ranging from Southern Baptist, Mennonite and the Salvation Army to Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

The participants were attracted to the conference because of its theme of "nurturing faith in children, youth and families" in a setting that included a combination of research, models, training and resources in addition to worship and fellowship opportunities.

But what made the conference noteworthy--along with its overall theme--said David Anderson, program director for the Youth and Family Institute, was that it brought together a sizable group of church leaders from varied denominational backgrounds to one place to address a vision of the church that will lead us into the next century.

"Instead of going out to various denominational groups, we brought them all here," Anderson said. "This was the first time this has been done and provided for an exciting, dynamic forum. The ecumenism here was based not on national policy, but rather on a common desire to nurture the Christian faith among children, youth and families."

The reactions from participants throughout the week affirmed that the conference was a tremendous success.

Gene Bradbury, pastor of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Prineville, Ore., said he has been to continuing education conferences or schools for 20 years and that this conference was the best he has attended.

"On the Sunday after I got back, I used the sermon time to let the congregation know all about the conference," Bradbury said. "People said to me they were glad to see me so excited."

Said Abe Bergen, director of youth ministry for the General Conference Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba: "I really appreciated the ecumenical spirit here and the commitment of the staff to empower and unleash family ministry in other denominations."

Sven Hedenrud, a professor at the Church of Sweden Pastoral Institute in Lund, Sweden, said the conference was "a powerful and inspirational experience."

"There are resources here that belong to the church as a whole, and we need those resources," said Hedenrud. "We, the Swedish group, are very impressed, and the next step for us is to determine how we can communicate this and plant it within the Swedish soil."

Each of the five days of the conference began with worship time, which was followed by two morning presentations from keynote speakers. Breaks between presentations allowed time for reflection and fellowship. After lunch, participants split up into various workshop tracks that allowed for training and small-group discussion in specialized areas. Each day concluded with worship time.

Anderson said the conference emphasized the following key points among its overall theme:

-- "The inclusive nature of family that is reflected both in scriptures and in our church history."

-- "That conference participants went away with information that helped them ground their vision of the church for the 21st century."

-- "That faith is formed by the power of the spirit through personal, trusted relationships, and often those relationships are in our own homes."

-- "That a critical understanding for the church is the vital partnership between the ministry of the home and the ministry of the congregation."

The major presenters for the conference were Dick Hardel, executive director of the Youth and Family Institute; Judith Christian, director of the child ministry department of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Diana R. Garland, professor of social work and coordinator for the master of social work program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Paul Hill, developer and director of the Center for Youth Ministries of Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa; Roland Martinson, professor of pastoral care at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.; and Anderson.

In addition to the varied denominational backgrounds represented at the conference, there was also an international slant, with approximately 20 combined registrants from England, Canada, Norway and Sweden.

Plans are already underway for next year's conference, which is scheduled for Aug. 2-6, 1999, and which will be titled "Nurturing the Faith Among the Generations."

The major presenters will include two individuals from Norway as well as representatives from the Roman Catholic, Missouri Synod and ELCA denominations and a Methodist professor teaching at a Presbyterian institution--Princeton Theological Seminary.

Anderson said he expects the registration for next year's conference to double from this year. For more information, call the Youth and Family Institute of Augsburg College at (612) 330-1624.