“I love working with youth in my congregation but sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“How do I get training as a youth leader?”
“I want to put more spiritual content in our youth program in ways that the kids can relate to.”
Across the country, there are many volunteer and part-time youth workers who don’t feel fully equipped for their vital ministry role. As a church, we share passion for working with young people. But how, without heading away to seminary, can we gain the skills to do that better? We often turn to our part-time youth workers and rely on them as ‘youth experts.’ But how often do we equip them to be just that?
Responding to these concerns, the National YouthInitiatives Team, in collaboration with the Ask & Imagine youth theology program at Huron University College, Faculty of Theology created Trailblazing. Trailblazing (trailblazing.anglican.ca) is a new online theological formation and leadership development program for youth leaders, developed by Canadian Anglican youth leaders and theologians.
“Many youth workers are dedicated volunteers” says Trailblazing coordinator Andrew Stephens-Rennie, from Vancouver. “And yet they don’t necessarily have much youth ministry formation beyond their own experience of youth group. Perhaps they have a degree in education, or a diploma as a child and youth worker in a secular setting.” Very few leaders have theological training, even though their task is to work with families and congregations to provide young people with Christian formation that will help them to navigate their spiritual lives and life choices.
Trailblazing fills some of those gaps by providing an accessible, easy-to-use, do-at-you-own-pace kind of training for youth leaders. Through a collection of on-line learning modules (on computer or tablet), learners can explore such topics as Introduction to Theology, Worldview and the Gospel, Building Community, Faith and Film, Theology and Music, The power of Story, Youth Ministry Basics, and Mission and Formation.
Each module takes between 2 and 3 hours to work through and builds on the others to form a thorough, theologically rigorous and engaging series of lessons. Online forums allow learners to interact with one other through conversation and reflection on the module content. Videos, articles, animations and interactive content all serve to help learners learn and connect with the material.
Trailblazing challenges learners to think about why they do what they do. Judy Steers, Trailblazing program director, notes that, “until we know how to think and reflect on our ministries, developing skills in theological refection, we will just be doing program for the sake of program.” Trailblazing aspires to ‘fill youth leaders’ toolbox,’ giving them skills and confidence in knowing what’s in their toolbox and how to use it.
A $75.00 annual subscription gives a subscriber access to ALL current and future modules for a 365 day period. The price is set to make the program sustainable, while being absolutely accessible and affordable to part-time or volunteer leaders and their parishes. Visit www.trailblazing.anglican.ca to see a sample module or read what other youth leaders are saying.