Teens of faith representing 23 states and multiple denominations
will gather at Emory for a deep exploration of Christian theology
and public issues during the 10th annual Youth Theological Initiatives
(YTI) Youth Summer Academy, June 29July 27.
The four-week living-learning program at the Candler School of
Theology aims to cultivate what organizers call public theologians
with the potential to serve as the next leaders for churches and
society. The diverse group of 60 rising high school seniors will
live, study and worship together at Emory as they explore issues
of faith in an increasingly diverse world.
What began as an experiment 10 years ago has grown into a
year-round effort, said Mark Monk Winstanley, YTI director.
He said the program has evolved into a center for research and education
that examines how youth think theologically, and it serves as a
resource for educators, churches and those who work with youth on
a variety of levels.
The YTI experience already is being used to develop materials and
strategies to train youth ministers, including a program for new
United Methodist Church youth ministers in Georgia.
The YTI studentsor scholars, as they are calledlive
in an Emory residence hall and choose from one of five classes:
The Whole People of God: Caring for Mind, Body and Spirit
as Practical Theology, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good
People? Exploring the Question of Evil, Faith and Dialogue:
Exploration of the Worlds Religions, or Faith
and Freedom: Cross-Cultural Liberation Theology.
They also gather as a community to do service projects and discuss
topics such as science and religion, thinking ethically, prayer
practices, and world faiths and religious traditions. The program
is free for participants and is funded through Candler and a grant
from the Lilly Endowment. Teachers for the summer academy include
Candler faculty, visiting theologians, Ph.D. students in Emorys
top-rated Graduate Division of Religion, and other guest speakers.
Organizers of YTI are completing a two-year study of the programs
long-term impact. One of the studys initial findings is that
youth are capable of thinking theologically and putting their theology
in practice. YTI will share the final results of the study during
a Sept. 1921 conference called Engaging the Prophetic
Voices of Youth.
We are finding that youth desire adult mentors and want to
mentor to others, Winstanley said. They are more open
to diverse relationships and ideas, and as adults we need to honor
the questions of youth, no matter how bizarre they may seem. It
is a key to keeping youth involved throughout their lives.
YTI is the first of more than 50 spinoff theological programs for
teens at universities and seminaries across the United States and
Canada. While designed for the same age group, the programs have
different formats and emphases; some are intended to recruit young
people for parish ministry. Emorys YTI encourages a more general
lifelong love of theology and serves as a living laboratory on how
youth respond to and use theological education, Winstanley said.