Reaching Today’s Generation: Professor Terry Linhart
Terry Linhart, Ph.D., who serves as chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, is known for his passion for youth ministry and evangelism. He first came to Bethel College in 2001 to oversee the Youth Ministry and Adolescent Studies degree, which, under Linhart’s leadership, has grown from just 17 students in 2001 to more than 70 students today. While he now oversees the entire department, he says his favorite classes to teach include those on multicultural youth ministry and the senior ministry capstone course.
“Because most of our youth ministry majors go on to graduate school, all of the students write a master’s-level paper during the capstone course so they know what that feels like,” he says. “We also talk about the pastoral ministry in that course and role-play weddings, do mock interviews and talk about theology.”
Linhart enjoys helping to prepare students for ministry because of the calling God placed on his own life when he was just 16. Sitting in a service at a summer camp, he didn’t know exactly what the Lord had in mind for him, but what he did know was that God had a specific plan for his life.
“I began looking around and asking God what kind of ministry I should pursue,” says Linhart. “I enjoyed music, and it was when Christian music was in its heyday, so I decided to go that route.”
Though many people in his family served in pastoral ministry and he was a pastor’s kid, Linhart envisioned himself serving in a different way. But, during the fall of his sophomore year in college, he sensed a more direct call to youth ministry.
“I was walking around the music building one day,” remembers Linhart, “and I felt God tell me that I was going to do youth ministry and help others do it well. And so, that’s been the call.”
Linhart and his wife met at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, where they were both involved in music activities.
“We were doing all kinds of rehearsals together,” he remembers, “and we just built the friendship from there.”
After earning his Bachelor of Arts in music theory, Linhart joined the staff of Youth for Christ in Fort Wayne, Ind. He also began teaching as a national trainer for Campus Life and pursued a master’s degree in educational ministry. During his master’s studies, he co-authored his first book, “Contagious Faith,” with Dave Rahn.
Since then, he has also authored or co-authored five additional youth ministry and evangelism books, including “Evangelism Remixed.” His international research, teaching and writing have allowed him to become a global voice on topics related to youth and culture. His range of experience has led to recognition on Twitter as one of the top 50 professors internationally on leadership, strategy and innovation.
Linhart says recent reports have listed ministerial leadership as a fading vocation, but that the opposite is actually true.
“Churches are dying for quality leadership at all levels — youth pastors, children’s pastors, senior pastors and worship leaders. If a teen feels called to ministry, they should pursue it.”