This past weekend, Chris Folmsbee traveled from Kansas City to Bedford NY. We had the priviledge of hosting the $5 Training from Barefoot Ministries.
Chris is the author of A New Kind of Youth Ministry and upcoming book Story, Signs and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry. He has traveled the world, speaking and training youth pastors and youth workers. He has spoken to 5,000 people at conventions and lead this same training for hundreds in packed churches. Yet, here he was coming to the northeast, to the small and sleepy village of Bedford Hills, NY to help struggling youth workers and volunteers better understand why we do what we do.
Since there is relatively little youth ministry culture in the northeast (not to mention the overwhelmingly busy and chaotic schedules everyone has) it is honestly difficult to promote anything having to do with youth ministry in these parts. Perhaps it is similar where you live and work. Conversely, I spoke with a youth pastor from Texas who said, “I could spit in the middle of a field, put a tent over it and call it a youth event, and get 200 students to show up.”
Chris came and interacted and engaged with our small and intimate gathering. He seemed to thrive in the atmosphere, as he was able to have one-on-one conversations with every youth worker, volunteer, and parent in attendance. I was able to have a good number of my team there, and the training was a perfect way to us to learn and grow together. Much of the ideas presented we have been working hard to implement, and so the training was an encouraging affirmation of the direction we are moving in. It was great for my leaders look up and realize “Now I understand why we made that change” or ” Our curriculum and lessons really do work together towards the spiritual formation of our students.”
The training was perfect for parents as well. Five of my leaders have students in the group and the material offered really helped them not only better understand the importance of youth ministry and their children, but better understand the processes that students go through as they develope spiritually.
The training and content was also perfect for our area. Most youth ministry “experts” don’t get the northeast. There are many cultural factors here that make ministry frustrating and difficult, and 9 times out of 10, the books being written and training offered just does not translate to my experience here in NY. Barefoot’s training and trainers seem to understand the dynamics at work. It helps that someone like Chris grew up for a while in NY and was a youth pastor here for a few years. Barefoot is also promoting and encouraging youth workers from our area to speak out and have a voice and they are willing to speak into our context and not just avoid it or disregard it like so many others.
A few of the factors that characterize this particular are that the vast majority of youth workers are unpaid and untrained. Most youth workers here (even the paid ones) have never read a youth ministry book or attended a big conference. Many volunteers are adults, who struggle to find the time and the balance between being a parent and, at the same time, being the church’s answer to the youth “problem”.
Morever, the effects of postmodernity and its ideologies have already permeated the schools and communities and anything to do with “religion” is not greeted warmly and looked down upon in many circles. While there is a great history of Christianity and religious revivals, they are distant memories that in no way shape the current situation. These are just a few of the challenges facing us here, and so we need people to speak on our behalf and people to speak into our realities. I think Barefoot has the ability to do that in the months and years to come.
Without giving away too much of the content, here are some key concepts presented in the $5 training:
Discipleship: Shaping Students for the Mission of God
This seminar will look at the key elements of the mission of God, foundational aspects of discipleship and a practical outline in which to guide students to engage in life-long spiritual discovery and growth.
Leadership 101: 10 Essentials for Developing Healthy Teams
Healthy teams are the backbone of successful youth ministries. God has called each of us to use our gifts and passions to contribute to something that is greater than ourselves – the mission of God. Discover 10 essentials for developing healthy teams that accomplish more than we could ever do on our own!
Engaging Parents: Keys to Helping Students Develop an Authentic Faith
It is widely known that parents are the primary influence in a teenager’s life. This seminar will look at how we can involve and encourage parents toward developing an authentic faith in the lives of their children. This seminar will look at the critical journey of faith and the three roles a parent can play to guide their children through their spiritual journey.
Discipleship is about shaping students for the Mission of God. The redemptove storyline of the Bible is God’s plan to restore humanity to wholeness and complete harmony. To understand the nature of God’s mission, it is vital to understand the Biblical text, your particular faith community, and your specific cultural context.
Some essentials for developing healthy teams include being a community first, open, honest, and truthful relationships, being able to listen, celebrate, and pray together.
Some keys to helping students develope an authentic faith is understanding the faith formation process and allowing for questioning, confusion, encounter, perplexity, etc..during the informative years.
Both parents and youth leader function at various times as Advisor, Advocate, and Guide and “youth ministry end only when the relationships cease to exist”.
What I appreciated the most about Barefoot’s training are 3 things:
1) The kindness and care of their leadership and trainers- they really took an interest in our church and our area.
2) The focus on theology, philosophy, and ideology behind youth ministry. This was not a workshop on how to promote you group better or run sweeter games. The material looks critically at the Scriptures and the Story of God and how the theology of the incarnation and mission of God should be what drives our youth ministries. There was more theology and Biblical interpretation and contextualiztion offered in this training than any other youth ministry training I have attended, but it was done in communal and conversational way that promoted questions and discussions.
3) The price. For the same cost as one of those 5 dollar footlongs at your local Subway, I was able to bring almost my entire leadership team for a day of training, inspiration, and support alongside other youth workers from our area.
My wife always says, “you get what you paid for”, usually in reference to the discounted garbage bags I buy that fall part once you put anything but paper in! But don’t let the low cost fool you. The content, structure, and materials offered (including a flash drive containing the content and slides) rivals (if not tops) the other one-day training events offered. I have been to them all, and Barefoot offers one of the best at a rate that every church can afford to send people to.
I realize that locations could be problematic. We were the only church in the northeast hosting, and only one of eight in the U.S. But I know that Barefoot has received huge response already from churches willing and wanting to host next year. If you are one of them, check out the website and get info about hosting one in your region. Readers and friends across the pond in the U.K, I am not sure what the plans for expansion are, but it is worth looking into as well.
Barefoot Ministries is also producing some excellent training materials and curriculum that can be used for Student education (sunday school), small groups, Bible studies, and even youth lessons.
“Barefoot exists to provide youth workers with effective ministry tools and resources. Our deepest desire is to partner with you in guiding students into spiritual formation for the mission of God.
Through youth ministry training, books, media, curriculum, magazines, web-based resources and a growing number of resources in development, Barefoot is committed to walking along side of you with practical resources and training as you serve the students and families in your church and community.”
Check out the link above if you are searching for some quality materials and content that you can adapt to fit your particular group of students and needs.