2016 - 2017 Lunch & Lecture Series

2016 – 2017
Empowering Youth: The Foundations of Joyful, Flourishing Lives

Join us for the Fall 2016 Lunch and Lecture Series!

All lectures will take place at:
Yale Divinity School
409 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511    

All of the lectures below can be found on our Livestream channel. Interviews with our guest lecturers are on our YouTube channel. 

Fall 2016 Line-up

Wednesday – October 5, 2016

Pamela Ebstyne King, Ph.D.

Pamela Ebstyne King, Ph.D. is the Peter L. Benson Associate Professor of Applied Developmental Science in the Thrive Center for Human Development in the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and researches and teaches in the areas of human thriving and positive youth development, spiritual and moral development, and theological perspectives of development. Pam is co-author of The Reciprocating Self: A Theological Perspective of Development and co-editor of the Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. Her research has been published in various journals such as Developmental Psychology, Applied Developmental Science, Journal of Early Adolescence, and The Journal of Psychology and Theology. 

Steven Argue, Ph.D.

Steven Argue, Ph.D. [Michigan State University], is the Assistant Professor of Youth, Family, and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary and Applied Research Strategist for the Fuller Youth Institute [Pasadena, CA]. Steve researches, writes, and speaks on topics surrounding adolescent and emerging adult spirituality. He has worked in academic, church, and parachurch contexts, and uses his experience and research to coach churches on youth ministry, emerging adulthood, spiritual formation, teaching and learning, and internship strategies. Prior to coming to Fuller, Steve led the kids and student ministry teams, and served on the lead team for Mars Hill Bible Church [Grand Rapids, MI].

Topic: Joy on Purpose
Joy vs. Happiness. Given that feelings of happiness are fleeting and the complexities of youth culture today, joy does not happen on accident. We contend it occurs on purpose. Joy is dependent on knowing what matters most in life and making a meaningful contribution to something beyond the self. Purpose is forged through encountering God’s grace and discovering one’s role in God’s ongoing work in this world. Stories define us. When we know our story and our role in the story—we discover our purpose. God’s ongoing story of creation, redemption and perfection is the ultimate story. Drawing on their backgrounds in ministry, theology, psychology, and education, Pam and Steve, offer insights and practical suggestions for enabling youth ministers to nurture a sense of purpose through discovering one’s place in God’s story. Faith lived on purpose is flourishing.

This lecture is now availble on Livestream for playback: http://livestream.com/yaledivinityschool/YMI

Wednesday – November 2, 2016

Kenda Creasy Dean, Ph.D.

Kenda Creasy Dean is the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is also the coordinating pastor of Kingston United Methodist Church in New Jersey, and an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference. Her publications include Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church and Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church.

Wesley Ellis

Wesley Ellis is an experienced youth worker and the Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Toms River, New Jersey. He is a Member In Discernment in the United Church of Christ. He is also a Ph.D. candidate at University of Aberdeen, studying practical theology. He received his M.A. in Christian Education and his M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2016.

Topic: The Joy of Untamed Friendship:  Rescuing Youth Ministry from The Little Prince

Youth ministers have long placed the practice of friendship at the center of youth ministry. But what makes our relationships with young people in church any different from their relationships anywhere else? This session dives headlong into the practice of holy friendship with teenagers, and whether being “tamed” by another is what Jesus had in mind. Is joy the end goal of friendship in youth ministry? Are church relationships “special”? Is this dangerous territory—or precisely the terrain we are on?

RSVP on Facebook and to Joy@Yale.edu

Wednesday – December 7, 2016

Dr. Mark Gornik

Mark Gornik is the is the Director of City Seminary of New York and pastor of the Community Church of St. Luke in Harlem. He has spent the last 25 years as a pastor, community developer, and researcher in African churches in NYC and beyond. He is the author of To Live in Peace: Biblical Faith and the Changing Inner City and Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City, which won Christianity Today’s 2012 Book Award for Missions & Global Affairs.

Miriam Acevedo
Miriam Acevedo is a Licensed Minister and directs the children’s programs at Damascus Christian Church in Hunt’s Point, the South Bronx, and is both a member of the faculty and Director of Operations at City Seminary of New York.

Topic: In this presentation, Mark Gornik and Miriam Acevedo discuss the role of “singing the sacred story” in learning and transmitting Christian faith across generations and cultures. To make their case for the sacred story of Christian Faith through the practice of singing, as well as reading Scripture, praying, dancing and testifying in a church community, they will share stories from New York City and of the Taizé Community in Europe.

Spring 2017 Line-up

Wednesday – January 4, 2017

dave_rahn_300_375  Dr. Dave Rahn & Ebonie Davis

Dr. David Rahn is the Senior Vice President and Chief Ministry Officer for Youth for Christ USA, an organization he has served since 1972. He also teaches in and directs the Graduate Program in Youth Ministry Leadership at Huntington University. Recent book publications include Evangelism Remixed: Empowering Students for Courageous and Contagious Faith and Symmetry: Fixing Broken Patterns for Kids in Crisis.

Ebonie Davis is a native of the Washington Metropolitan area and a prominent voice in discussions of ethnic diversity and Christian youth work. Ebonie conducted the most recent national multi-city study of church ministries known for best practices of racially diverse ministry. Ebonie was a co-researcher in the national Indigenous Urban Ministry Leadership study conducted by YFC/USA’s City Life division. She is the author of several articles and is a contributing writer on the NLT “Three Story” Bible published by Tyndale and Youth for Christ/USA. Ebonie consults on topics related to youth ministry, spiritual formation, and multicultural ministry.  She has served as the Associate Pastor of Youth at Trinity Baptist Church in Waldorf, MD for ten years. Ebonie holds a Master’s degree from Huntington University in Youth Ministry Leadership.

Topic: Gritty Sabbath Rest: Shaping a Keystone Habit for Adolescent Faith & Joy

When our experience of joy is tethered to an identity-centering relationship with Jesus Christ its promise is assured by Christ’s resurrection. Learning how to live more fully in the presence of Jesus helps us to experience resilient joy, inextinguishable in the face of untimely or chronic adversity. As Brother Lawrence taught in the 17th century, joy from the ever present Christ is accessible even amidst life’s tedious tasks, like washing dishes. Today’s fast-paced lifestyles may exacerbate the natural challenge of capacity limitations but they need not hijack the promised joy of Christ’s indwelling presence in our lives. Learning to live with Jesus is joyfully transformational, but it takes deliberate practice. Gritty Sabbath rest, shaped as a keystone habit that works for spiritually unsophisticated adolescents, may be just what we need to learn how to flourish with Jesus in joy.

This lecture is now archived and available on livestream.

Wednesday – February 1, 2017


Dr. Courtney T. Goto & Lakisha Lockhart

Dr. Courtney T. Goto is an Assistant Professor of Religious Education and a co-Director of the Center for Practical Theology. Her research interests include aesthetic teaching and learning; imagination, creativity, and embodied knowing in adult religious education; and intersections of power, privilege, and culture in practical theology. Her most recent book is The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God’s New Creation (2016). Her current book (in progress) is a moral project on dynamics of power and oppression in discourse, research, and teaching in practical theology. Goto is a third generation Japanese American United Methodist.

Lakisha Lockhart is the Director of the STREAM Youth Theology Institute at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and a doctoral candidate at Boston College in Theology and Education researching womanish modes of play as a pedagogical tool for theological education. This southern lady received her B.A from Claflin University, M.Div. from Wesley Theological Seminary, M.A. in Ethics & Society from Vanderbilt University and has been a Zumba instructor since 2013. She served as youth minister at Sightseeing Road Chapel in Columbus, GA where she was able to discover and live into one of her passions of helping young people find God for and within themselves and see how their own gifts and talents not only matter but can transform the world. She believes in the power of play and embodiment in theological education for adults and adolescents alike.

Topic: Holding Lightly: Cultivating Playfulness in Youth

In this presentation, we explore playfulness as holding lightly, a spiritual practice that is both purposeful and necessary for the faith and flourishing of adolescents. We investigate what playfulness means and how the practice can help young people cope with everyday challenges and reflect deeply on questions such as: who am I, what are my gifts and passions, who has God created me to be, and what is my purpose. We will offer ways in which, we, as ministers and educators can provide adolescents spaces that not only allow for playfulness but welcome it.

This lecture is now archived and available on livestream.

Wednesday – March 1, 2017


Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean & Abigail Visco Rusert

Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean is the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is also the coordinating pastor of Kingston United Methodist Church in New Jersey, and an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference. Her publications include Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church and Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church.

Abigail Visco Rusert has had the opportunity to work with youth on three continents and in six churches. Ordained in the PC (USA), she served most recently as the Associate Pastor at Carmel Presbyterian Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania.  Abigail is a graduate of Valparaiso University (music/theology) and Princeton Theological Seminary. She and her husband Thomas live in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with their daughters Dorothy and Solveig.

Topic Moved to Joy: Purpose, Awe & Wonder

To live the life of a young person is to live a life in motion. Propelled by a frenzy of activities, the young people in our care long to be “moved” beyond their selves and situations. Every day, the lure of achievement and the spectacle of entertainment promise to elevate them to new levels of joy and importance. Meanwhile, Christian theology promises a different kind of movement—the movement of God towards us, revealed when we do the unthinkable in our culture of perpetual motion and “wait” upon the Lord.

This lecture is now archived and available on livestream.

Wednesday April 5, 2017


Dr. Andrew Root & Christian Gonzalez

*PLEASE NOTE: This lecture will take place at the Greenberg Conference Center next door to Yale Divinity School at 391 Prospect St, New Haven, CT 06511!

Dr. Andrew Root is is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is most recently the author of Christopraxis: A Practical Theology of the Cross and Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker.  He has also written The Relational Pastor as well as a four book series called A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry. In 2012, his book The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (with Kenda Creasy Dean) received Christianity Today’s Award of Merit.

Christian Gonzalez is the Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Department of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Topic: The Youth Worker as Kenotic Guide: How Ministry Passes on Faith More than Doctrine

In this presentation, we’ll explore how faith is passed on and what, if anything, this has to do with theology. We’ll ask specifically, what exactly does it mean to take a theological turn in youth ministry? Looking at the biblical theme of kenosis, we’ll turn away from a technological perspective that sees youth ministry as providing solutions, or faith-formation as getting the knowledge of theology in young people’s heads.  Instead we will explore how faith-formation, theology, and ministry are held together, drawing particularly from the life and youth ministry of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, to see how youth workers today can be kenotic guides.

This lecture is now archived and available on livestream.

Wednesday May 3, 2017

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Dr. Anne E. Streaty Wimberly

Dr. Anne E. Streaty Wimberly is Professor Emerita of Christian Education at the Interdenominational Theological Center. She serves as the Executive Director of the Youth Hope-Builders Academy at ITC, a youth theology program funded by the Lilly Endowment. Her publications include In Search of Wisdom: Faith Formation in the Black Church and Soul Stories: African American Christian Education.


Dr. Almeda Wright

Almeda Wright is Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Yale Divinity School. Her research focuses on African American religion, adolescent spiritual development, and the intersections of religion and public life. She is ordained in the American Baptist Church. She is co-editor, with Mary Elizabeth Moore, of Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World, and has served as editor of an issue of Practical Matters Journal.

Topic: Memory & Joy

The lecture will provide historical material and pedagogical perspectives on nourishing youths’ joy by connecting them with the past in ways that foster truth-telling, communal and personal identity formation, agency, lament, and a vital life of faith and hope.  The lecture draws on findings from research undertaken by the lecturers entitled “Finding Joy in Adolescence: African-American Stories from the Past for the Present.”

This lecture is now archived and available on livestream.