One of the privileges of being a faculty member at Bethel College is the support we receive to pursue our own development through scholarly research and writing. In 2009, the college granted me a sabbatical to research global youth work while in southern Africa. Half of the world’s population is under the age of 25, a percentage that will grow before it gets smaller. In some countries, more than 70 percent of the population is younger than 25, and 90 percent of those live in developing countries.[i] It is no wonder then that corporations, churches, mission agencies, schools and governments have focused their attention on children and youth.

David Livermore[ii] and I brought together 24 of the leading youth ministry voices from around the world to create “GLOBAL YOUTH MINSTRY” (Zondervan, March 2011). GYM is the first textbook for the fast-developing interest among students at colleges, seminaries and institutes. Advanced copies have already been used at Princeton Theological Seminary while Kentucky Christian University and Golden Gate Theological Seminary will be using the book this semester.

L to R: Linhart, Nathan Chiroma, Edward Buri

It was great to have Bethel students participate in the book process. Melissa (Diaz ’09) Bennetts coordinated the communication and editorial progress with all 25 authors. Adrienne Searer (’10) conducted a worldwide study on the state of vocational youth ministry. Tony Wiltse (’10) and Courtney Chapman (’12) assisted with various elements while Melisa Peebles (’13) edited and wrote introductory material for two chapters. The book also benefitted from the scholarly review and input of Kent Eby, Ph.D., assistant professor of missions.

This month I presented the book and some observations on global youth ministry to the biennial conference of The International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry. Usually held at Cambridge (UK), this year’s conference was held in Pretoria, South Africa.  As I arrived to register, a tall man walked out and I looked at his nametag: “Edward Buri” — one of the authors from the book. Though Edward and I had worked via e-mail for two years, we had never met and didn’t know the other would be at this conference. But, it didn’t stop there because the program directors had placed Edward as the facilitator for my plenary session. What a special treat it was to share the platform with this dynamic and gracious youth leader in Kenya and to again realize how ‘small’ and ‘young’ the world has become. Global youth ministry continues to grow in scope and necessity — and Bethel’s students and faculty are shaping its future.

Check out “GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY” and become a Facebook fan.

Terry Linhart, Ph.D., is the director of Youth Ministries at Bethel College. Follow his blog, “In the Corner of This World …”

[i]. Herrera, L. (2006). What’s new about youth? Development and Change, 37 (6), 1426.

[ii] David (PhD, Michigan State) was a professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He now consults and trains schools, governments, and business on cultural intelligence and co-leads The Cultural Intelligence Center