Youth Theological Initiative

With support from Lilly Endowment Inc., Candler School of Theology founded the Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) in 1993 as a center of research and teaching dedicated to the theological education of youth. We strive to share what we have learned in ways that support innovative forms of youth ministry.

At YTI, we believe:

  • Youth are capable of doing important theological work, and the church and society need them to do this work.
  • Adolescence is a life stage primed for seeing the gap between what the world is and what it could be.
  • Theological training can empower youth to effect social change.
  • Theological training is transformative when youth are seen as equal partners in the educational process.
  • The greatest degree of transformation happens when people who come from different backgrounds and hold dramatically different beliefs live in an inclusive community where lifelong friendships are formed.

In 2016, Emory launched a new initiative, YTI IMPACT, to work alongside YTI and to offer shorter programs throughout the year. Now, in addition to the YTI Summer Academy in July, YTI IMPACT offers a Civil Rights travel seminar in February, a travel seminar to Northern Ireland in June, custom workshops, and a public theology internship for graduates of the YTI Summer Academy.

For further information, contact the director of YTI and YTI IMPACT, Jill Weaver, at 404-727-4239 or or visit


More information about each of our programs can be found at Fundraising support and scholarships are available.

Praying with Our Feet
A travel seminar over President’s Day weekend (February 18-21, 2022) to Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, Alabama. We explore the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s and what it can teach us about taking action today. Open to 9th-12th graders.

Journeys of Faith and Reconciliation: Belfast
A travel seminar to Belfast, June 2022. We explore how Northern Ireland moved from deadly violence to peaceful, political negotiation of conflict. We discuss what lessons may apply to our own conflicts in the U.S. Open to high school students (including spring 2022 graduates) who will be 18 by June 2022. Also open to recent alumni of YTI and YTI IMPACT programs.

YTI Summer Academy
A two-week residential academy on the campus of Emory University, July 10-23, 2022. We live in a diverse and inclusive community while exploring theology and social justice. Open to rising 10th-12th graders. We now offer a year-long public theology internship for graduates of the Summer Academy. Scholars work on these internships in their home communities and then have the option of returning for a second Summer Academy.

Custom Workshops
We can customize the length and topics of our workshops to fit the needs of your group. Our goal is to demonstrate how theology can empower you to transform your life and the world. Let us know if you are interested in attending a workshop or in hosting one at your school or church.

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YTI partners with Candler’s Religious Education program to serve students interested in focusing on ministries with youth. MDiv and MTS degree students can earn a certificate in Religious Education that includes coursework focused on ministry with youth. Candler also offers a Master of Religious Leadership specializing in ministries with youth. Additionally, many students from Candler and Emory's Graduate Division of Religion work with YTI on research, which explores the theological perspectives and practices of youth and young adults.

Many students have found working for YTI to be an important and formative part of their educational experience. If you are interested in working for YTI or YTI IMPACT, let us know here.


What are young people thinking about God and God’s relationship to the world? How can adults help them reflect faithfully upon the world, their lives, and the ways they might identify and use their gifts for the benefit of the world? Since its beginning in 1993, YTI has conducted research into the theological perspectives of youth, research that reveals a better understanding of young people and how to work with them in ways that can enable them to live more fully into their gifts and commitments. Out of this research, several books useful for youth ministry scholars and practitioners have been published, including the following:

Donors play an essential role in our work. If you would like to be a part of our mission, you can donate to YTI here.