Youth Leaders Pursue Certification

Date Posted: 11/25/2014

Professional certification to specialize in youth ministry involves Bible training, skill development, experience and accountability. Hear why several TAC youth leaders believe this certification process is important.
Youth ministry certification is optional, but well worth the time, according to “freshman” Trevor Barnett who will begin Year 2 of the five-year process in January. “When I hired on at John Wesley UMC in Houston, certification was something I had been wanting to pursue and it was highly recommended by the church,” notes Trevor. “So far, it has been a great way to learn about youth ministry as well as a great way to expand connections with those in similar roles across state lines.”
The process toward earning a Perkins Youth Ministry Certification under the leadership of the General Board of Higher Education, centers on a week of intense training each January. There are reading and writing assignments leading up to the week of group training and several follow up projects or papers related to the topics being studied.
“Last year the focus was on the adolescent world, with discussions about how the changes in culture affect young people age 10-20 both psychologically and spiritually,” shares Trevor. “This year’s focus is on United Methodist studies, which will cover the history of the church as well as Wesleyan practice and theology.”
Rev. Thera Freeman, Young Adult Ministries Director for TAC, believes continued education and theological training are two immensely important components to an effective, happy, empowered youth worker. “A commitment to a program like Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM) gives continued longevity for the youth worker as they earn their certification,” she says, “while giving them the tools to avoid burn out in an extremely demanding job. Strangers in the classroom become acquaintances then colleagues and friends through this residential process creating a unique community of people whose main priority is the spiritual development of young people.”
Thera highly encourages churches to help their youth workers apply to PSYM and to have regular continued education and opportunities for creating solid theological frameworks. She adds, “Investing our youth workers and our money in PSYM continues to build a firm, distinctly United Methodist foundation for our young people.”
Why Certification?
Certification is the United Methodist Church’s recognition that an individual has been called, made a commitment to serve, and has fulfilled the required standards for academic training, experience, and continuing study to serve with excellence in an area of specialized ministry. Those who earn this United Methodist certification demonstrate that they are explicitly prepared to lead others in United Methodist churches and contexts. Professional certification is available via three tracks: professional, undergraduate, or paraprofessional certification.

Youth ministry leader Mak Young, Parkway UMC, Sugarland struggled a bit with the decision to pursue this leadership training. “It sounded fancy enough, so I looked into it and upon discovering how long it takes to complete certification, the commitment scared me,” she shares.
She admits to ignoring the option while secretly yearning for something more -- more than just curriculum suggestions, innovative spiritual activities and a weekend conference. “I longed to be fed and motivated spiritually so that I could, in turn, feed and motivate the youth in my community. And just like that, I became the stereotypical student that always complains about wanting more but never commits to the solution. That is until the same annoying friend who shall remain nameless (Eddie Erwin), called me and reminded me that the deadline for certification registration was the next day and I should get on it.”
The next day Mak completed all required paperwork, requested her undergrad transcript be sent to Perkins, and received approval from her pastor and SPR committee to attend the certification class. “Just when I thought the hard stuff was over with, I received my syllabus for class. God knocked my ego back where it belonged. I had no idea what to expect, but I did know that God’s hand was in this journey.

She is quick to admit, “God changed me at Perkins. He changed my heart and challenged me to reconsider my approach to youth ministry. I went to school thinking that life was about black and white answers that I need to know so that I can give them to my students, but I left there with more questions than answers… and that is a very good thing.”
According to Trevor, “There are about 30 in our class, so we are able to have pretty intimate discussions and opportunities to work in small groups on projects in the evening – and help each other with ideas and challenges. After our January training, we will each be tasked with developing 6-week lesson plans for teaching junior high students about United Methodist principles as well as lesson plans for high school students.” Youth ministry leaders can jump into the training cycle at any time, as the topics repeat every five years.
Mak left certification school with a new perspective on youth ministry, the Methodist church, and herself. “I now have confidence in my calling from God that I never knew I needed. I realize this might sound like a promotional article to persuade people to pursue their certification in youth ministry, but it is just my honest experience. An experience that I am eternally grateful for and I look forward to class next year.”

Review the requirements behind this leadership opportunity