As a Candler student myself, I did not identify my calling as youth ministry. Indeed, my interests during my time there focus on historical theology, and this is the area of study in which I pursued my doctorate at Emory University later. Yet, I spent several summers of student years working for the Youth Theological Initiative, a program for high school students in justice-seeking theological education. This “summer job” turned out to be one of the most important experiences I had at Candler—spiritually, professionally and intellectually. At YTI, I had the opportunity to participate in innovative practices of religious education, learning how to engage in theological reflection with young people that enlivened their imaginations and inspired them to move out into the world to transform it. Living in an ecumenical, diverse community of fellow Candler students, Emory University PhD students, and high school students from around the country, and indeed around the world, I developed insights into the dynamics of race, gender and class, honed skills in teaching, pastoral care, worship planning, and conflict transformation, and came to understand myself better as a teacher and minister. Now that I am on faculty at Candler and serve as the director of YTI, I see how the roots of my professional and personal develop began during these experiences as a Candler student.
Those who feel called to working with youth, whether in the local church, in a school or in a non-profit context, can explore this vocation at Candler easily. In addition to working with YTI, students can participate in internships in congregations and organizations in the Atlanta area that provide the space to experiment with new ways of engaging young people in transformative ministry. They can take courses in religious education and participate in research projects that draw on the voices and insights of young people directly. They can even pursue a Certificate in Religious Education with a focus in youth ministry.
Those who feel called to other vocations still have much to gain from the unique youth education resources at Candler, however. At YTI, for example, we are experimenting in interfaith dialogue, innovative worship, and new forms of building community that are invaluable for working with adults as well. We are learning new ways of “doing church” that will enliven the work of all congregational leaders, ordained and lay, senior pastors and youth directors, teachers and ministers.
What are you called to do? Come explore with us!
Dr. Corrie is Assistant Professor of Youth Education and Peacebuilding and Director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler. Her research interests include theories and practices of nonviolent strategies for social change, the religious roots of violence and nonviolence, international peacebuilding initiatives, and character education and moral development with children and youth. She received her MDiv from Candler in 1996 and PhD from Emory University.