Early Bird Super Seminars

Developing Volunteers into a Team

Doug Franklin

Never underestimate the power of a dedicated team of volunteer leaders. But finding, forming, and training that team can prove to be one of the toughest challenges in ministry. Join Doug Franklin as he explores how to equip volunteer leaders with a skill set unique to their role. You’ll learn practical tips and tricks for building meaningful relationships, teaching for transformation, leading discussions, and challenging students to make life applications.

Enfolding Students with Disabilities into Youth Ministry

Ashley Belknap

As students with unique needs (diagnosed and undiagnosed) transition from children’s ministry to youth ministry, it is very likely that youth leaders and volunteers will entertain the question, “Can I really disciple and enfold every student into youth ministry”?  This super seminar will seek to equip every youth leader to understand how and believe that they can reach, disciple, and enfold every student – even if you have not had any exposure or practice interacting with students with disabilities. Youth ministry is the critical bridge for families remaining in church life-long. If students impacted by disability can thrive through the transition from children’s ministry to youth ministry, the student and his family is 90% more likely to remain in church life-long.  Ashley will provide you with a foundation for making disability ministry part of your already-existing youth ministry programming without asking you to change everything you are already doing.  Her goal is to make you and your youth ministry stronger as you seek to disciple and enfold every child.  This seminar will also provide you an opportunity to ask specific, acute-needs questions and get real-time answers on strategies to support your students.

Get a Grip on Your Emotions  

Robert Row

What if you were given a new paradigm for processing your emotions? What if you had a person you could look to and see what perfect emotional health looked like? What if you could attend a pre-conference seminar that would give you a lens for the week, your life, AND your ministry helping students process their often confusing emotions?!? Join us for an interactive Gospel look into the life of the most emotionally healthy person that has ever lived, the Second Adam, the Person of Jesus.

Legal Issues in Youth Ministry 

Dr. Duffy Robbins 

Most of us have heard the horror stories: youth leaders sued because of negligence on a backpacking trip; a youth pastor called into court because one of his volunteers molested one of the kids in the youth group. What are some of the issues youth pastors need to be thinking about in today’s current legal climate? To what extent are you or your church at risk of litigation? What precautions do we need to take as youth workers? This seminar is NOT a microwave version of law school – youth ministry meets Judge Judy,. But it will give you a good first look at some of the questions surrounding these very important issues, and some practical ideas about how you might respond.

Plenary Sessions ​

Anticipatory Anxiety: Trusting God in the Midst of Uncertainty

Julie Lowe

We all are impacted by a world full of brokenness and difficulty. It is tempting to approach life waiting for the next hard thing and looking for ways to avoid it. There can only be one place refuge can be guaranteed, and that is in our Lord. 


Walking With Those Who Struggle

Julie Lowe

What does it look like to walk alongside someone who struggles deeply? We will consider how to live alongside and love well our fellow strugglers.


Teenagers and God: Understanding Teenage Spirituality 

Dr. Duffy Robbins
What does it mean for a teenager to “accept Christ”, and how do we understand that commitment in terms of two primary youth ministry contexts: Scripture and adolescence? What do we know about nurturing Christian commitment? How does that translate to the world of teenagers? This seminar will offer insights from theology, adolescent research and practical experience, to help you think about nurturing authentic faith in the life of your students.  

Connecting the Generations: Is it a Nicety or a Non-Negotiable Necessity? 

Tony Souder
God has designed his family, the church, to experience the generational benefits of being in vital relationship with each other. Every generation needs every generation. Research shows us that intergenerational relationships are a central factor in helping young people flourish in both faith and life. With this in mind: How is your church/ministry doing in creating life-giving intergenerational relationships? Is every young person in your ministry experiencing the goodness of these relationships? Considering the importance of these relationships for each emerging generation, how can we make this a non-negotiable part of our ministries? This seminar will explore how individuals, families and churches can be intentional in helping young people have the Christ-centered adult relationships they need to flourish in faith and life for a lifetime.   

Understanding and Addressing Our Students’ Focus on Themselves 

Dr. Walt Mueller
Both research and observation tell us that self-centeredness, narcissism, and entitlement are on the rise in our culture. These realities are deeply rooted in the cultural narrative our kids swim in every day, pushing them away from the life-giving truths of God’s Word. In this seminar, Walt will guide you through how the cultural narrative fosters this focus on self, offer strategies for helping students recognize the lies and nurture a lifestyle of loving and serving God rather than self.  

Working With Anxious Parents of Anxious Kids

Dr. Danny Kwon
For teenagers and young adults today, depression and anxiety seem to be becoming an epidemic. They are stressed, anxious, and even suicidal. This session will begin to offer help for parents (and those who serve parents) to understand and embrace their teenagers and young adults, to walk with them, and offer them guidance and love in their journey with their children  

Effective Bible Teaching to Mixed-Ability Youth Groups

Ashley Belknap
It is very common to find a wide range of learning needs present in the students in youth ministries. This seminar will focus on strategies for Bible teaching that go a step beyond sitting and listening to a lecture-style Sunday school or large group.  Ashley will provide practical strategies for breaking down (not dumbing down) content that will help every student learn the Bible, theology and application to their lives at a deeper level, while accounting for unique learning differences within the group due to motivation, attention to task, addiction to screens, etc.

Moving From Teaching to Discipleship: Discipleship Strategies for Youth Ministry

Doug Franklin
Join Doug as he takes an intentional look at the “why” and the “how” behind discipleship. Learn practical tips and tricks for building meaningful relationships, sharing personal stories, asking intentional questions, helping students make life applications, and holding students accountable. Even if you’ve never been discipled yourself, you’ll learn guiding principles that can be applied to your own discipleship relationships or taught to other volunteers on your team.   

Understanding and Teaching God’s Design for Sex and Gender (2 parts) 

Dr. Walt Mueller
Our children and teens are growing up in a world where “It’s all up to you!” is the mantra that guides – or more accurately mis-guides – our students into embracing and living out ideologies on sex and gender that undermine their human flourishing. In this two-part seminar, Walt will walk you through how the Sex Positive movement and LGBTQ+ ideologies are forming the beliefs and behaviors of our kids, along with how and what to teach about the beauty of God’s sex-and-gender-positive design. as the path to spiritual growth, relational growth, and sexual flourishing.  

Engaging Students with Spiritual Disciplines that Combat Anxiety

Dr. Don Shepson
In this session we will think about two primary issues: we will consider the predominance and sources of anxiety in students and we will examine various spiritual disciplines that provide means of combating anxiety. Don will outline a methodology for thinking about anxiety and assisting students overcome their concerns.  

Giving a Talk: From Mouth to Ear to Mind to Heart

Dr. Duffy Robbins
Remember the old question about the tree falling in the forest? If no one heard it fall, did it actually make a sound? Well, every week thousands of youth workers ask the same question: “If a youth pastor gives a talk to his youth group, and nobody actually hears it, did he actually speak at all?” It doesn’t take long in youth ministry before you realize that giving a talk is not the same thing as being given a hearing. This seminar will offer you a chance to think about the three basic components of a spoken message and to understand the why and how of inductive communication. You will walk away from this session with a better sense of how to prepare and deliver an effective youth talk.  

Serving Teenagers and Families of Immigrants

Dr. Danny Kwon
In the ever present and changing landscape and demographics of youth ministry in North America, immigrant families and teenagers present a unique audience and context for youth ministry. This workshop will outline some reflections and ideas for youth ministry practices in this context to begin to consider how we can better serve our diverse families and teenagers.  

Understanding Anxiety in Young People

Julie Lowe
Youth are more anxious than ever. We will look at what contributes to the epidemic and how we can provide hope for the next generation.   

Developing Small Group Ministry

Dr. Don Shepson
During our time together we will develop a plan of action for developing small group ministries. In order to do that we will briefly examine the biblical and sociological rationale for small groups, the theory and practice of small groups, review current models, leadership training and the administration of small groups within the local church.  

Sabbath Rhythms for Life and Ministry: Fostering Peace and Avoiding Burnout

Dr. John Perritt 
The biblical truth of Sabbath is one that often stirs up notions of debate, disagreement and misunderstanding. At the core of this truth, we see a loving and gracious God guarding his children from overwork, stress and burnout. This class highlights our gracious Father and sets forth practical boundaries to foster rest in life and ministry.  

Effective Strategies for Ministering to Parents 

Kyle Hoffsmith and Walt Mueller
Because God gives parents primary responsibility for the spiritual nurture of their children and teens, youth workers need to see themselves as not only a secondary spiritual influence, but as influencers and supporters of parents as they fulfill their God-given roles. Youth ministry affords us great opportunities to minister to parents, whether those parents are actively involved in the spiritual nurture of their own kids or unaware of that responsibility. In this seminar, Walt and Kyle will offer up a brief theology of parent ministry, along with a number of effective strategies and resources for encouraging, educating, and supporting parents. Walt will offer insights from his decades-long experience of ministry to parents, and Kyle will share the strategies he is enlisting in his current local church youth ministry.  

Discipling and Enfolding Kids with Autism, Limited Language, and Maladaptive Behaviors Into Youth Ministry

Ashley Belknap
This seminar will provide an encouraging foundation and practical next steps for youth leaders who are eager to support teens who may have more noticeable challenges enfolding into youth ministry. Ashley will provide a background from understanding unique behaviors as communication. Her goal is to teach you how to get these students growing in Christ and developing genuine relationships with peers and volunteers, without requiring you to re-invent your youth ministry. Additionally, she will teach you how to build relationships with students that support motivation, participation, and increase participation through communication. She will also provide you with strategies to buoy social skills and educate your youth ministry students so that everyone learns to love each other well.  

Youth MInistry in Stressful Times: Ministry in the Key of Lament

Dr. Duffy Robbins
So much of what we hear and see from our students, and from the world of social science is telling us that, at an increasing rate, teenagers are facing isolation, anxiety and depression. As we consider together “biblical hope for anxious hearts”, it’s important to help our students consider that God could possibly use these times of difficulty and stress to build us into more resilient disciples of Christ. Loaded with practical ideas, this seminar will offer a framework for thinking about how the biblical concept of lament can be a powerful tool for growth, nurture and encouragement in your youth ministry.

Fostering a Bible Reading Culture with Students in Ministry

Linda Oliver and Kyle Hoffsmith
We want our students to read, study, and apply the Word of God in their lives, but many of them are busy with activities, buried in technology, and even struggle to make time for youth group. In this elective we will diagnose the root of this problem as well as think through practical solutions to help build a culture of Bible reading in our youth ministries. The goal is to teach and train students to know God more through reading their Bibles both now and for decades in the future!  

Developing Students as Leaders

Doug Franklin
The Leadership Pathway is a tool designed to help you answer the question, “How do I develop leaders in my ministry? You’ll learn a simple, practical, and straightforward approach to leadership development that can help you train and equip student leaders, moving them from participant to leader.  

Youth Ministry With Adopted and Foster Kids

Tim Habecker
Forming an identity in adolescence is difficult enough, but foster and adopted kids face unique challenges they may find difficult if not impossible to articulate. Consequently well-intentioned parents and youth workers find themselves addressing symptoms while scratching their heads over the cause. Meanwhile, opportunities to unpack and apply the rich imagery of the gospel to real life are overlooked. Tim is a former youth pastor, a camp director working to develop programs for foster kids, and an adoptive parent. He and his wife Jo are none too eager to share all the mistakes they’ve made. But if doing so helps better equip churches and youth ministries to reach out, relate, and minister to foster and adoptive families, it’s worth it.   

Leading Leaders: How To Effectively Lead a Youth Ministry Team

Dr. Chris Walker
Youth pastors know that they are called to minister to teens. But leading a team is an entirely different skill set than preaching, counseling, or knowing how to talk to teens over coffee or cheeseburgers. Yet the effectiveness of your ministry to teens will almost certainly be determined by the effectiveness of your ministry to and leadership of the volunteers that come alongside you in the ministry. This seminar will focus on the philosophy and practice of leading a youth ministry team.  

How to Engage Students with Theology

Linda Oliver and Kyle Hoffsmith
R.C. Sproul was correct when he titled a book “Everyone’s a Theologian.” Although students might have less years of life than others in the church, they still have minds that can learn and process theological themes and topics that can help them know God more. In this elective we will consider a variety of ways to engage students with theology, think through roadblocks that need to be avoided, and end with practical next steps for everyone to use in our student ministries.  

Teens, Tech, Social Media, and Anxiety: Realities and Remedies 

Dr. Walt Mueller
The latest research tells us that our children and teens are spending over 8½ hours a day engaged with their screens. It’s no coincidence that as time spent on social media and screens has been steadily rising, there’s been a parallel rise and spike in anxiety, stress, depression, and suicide in our student populations. As a youth worker, you must engage in the process of “digital discipleship” by teaching your students how to use their smartphones and other technologies to God’s glory. In this seminar, Walt will offer insights into how and why technology is contributing to the decline in student spiritual, relational, and emotional health, along with strategies you can enlist in your ministry to teach kids to manage their devices, rather than allowing their devices to manage them. . . which ultimately will lead to health and wholeness.  

How To Utilize Camps, Conferences, and Retreats in Youth Ministry

Tim Habecker & Patrick Myers
There are a boat load of opportunities out there for youth groups! How does a youth leader choose the right ones and avoid the “busts?” How does one deal with students’ “mountain-top” experience; is the subsequent crash inevitable? What about all the planning, logistics, expenses, and expectations involved? It pays to think not only strategically, but relationally and definitely theologically about youth ministry on the road, in a cabin, at an arena, or from a backpack. This will be a discussion of how to do just that while creating excitement that doesn’t threaten to push you over a cliff…either figuratively or literally.