Youth Theological Initiative

Youth Theological Initiative

The Youth Theological Initiative (YTI) was conceived by Dr. Craig Dykstra, who envisioned a different way of engaging young people in religious life. Candler partnered with Dr. Dykstra and Lilly Endowment, Inc., to create a program where youth could address theological questions and issues that might not be discussed in their local faith communities. Since 1993, YTI has gathered youth from across the United States to the annual Summer Academy, an ecumenical program in justice-seeking theological education for juniors and seniors in high school. Our summer “scholars” explore important theological and social issues, create an intentional community of transformative, mutual relationships that call out the imago dei in all people, and serve others through work at Atlanta-area social agencies.

Throughout the years, YTI has engaged in research into the ways young people reflect on God, God's relationship to the world, and their own participation in tikkun olam, the healing of the world. We also conduct research into practices of, and resources for, ministries with youth that foster the exploration of theological questions and their activity on behalf of justice in the world. Beginning in 1999 we expanded our youth ministry education beyond courses offered at Candler School of Theology by partnering with various denominational groups to offer workshops and consultations for adults working with youth in local faith communities. Drawing on our research and our work with young people in the Academy, we help these adults develop the skills that will enable them to engage young people as Christian disciples in the fullest sense—with a commitment to acting attentively to God's ongoing activity in the world by bringing together justice-seeking action and compassionate responses to all creation. In all of our work YTI strives to equip young women and men to engage in theological reflection and action, and to ignite their vocational imaginations for the benefit of church and society. With the support of Lilly Endowment, Candler School of Theology, churches and individuals, the Youth Theological Initiative has become an internationally recognized leader in innovative approaches to practices and perspectives of youth.

YTI partners with Candler's Religious Education Program to offer a certificate in ministries with youth for MDiv, MRL and MTS students. 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. Others work with YTI's annual Summer Academy, an intensive, residential program of justice-seeking theological education for high school students. Applications for summer staff positions are accepted each fall; contact the YTI office for more information.

In addition to providing outstanding opportunities in youth ministry education at Candler, YTI support the work of denominations, regional judicatories and congregations through its Youth Ministry Education programs, working to enhance the practices of youth ministry in local congregations. For more information email Beth Corrie, Director or call 404.712.4160.

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 comes the Youth Ministry Alternatives, a YTI-sponsored book series published through Pilgrim Press.
Additional works based on YTI research have also been published recently through Wipf and Stock.

Many of these books can be purchased at a discounted rate from YTI. Email us for details.

The YTI Summer Academy gathers 40 rising high school juniors and seniors from across the country and around the world to Emory University for a three-week experience in Christian theological education.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a strong academic record, curiosity about the relationship between theology and public issues and a commitment to serving the public good through reflection and action.

YTI seeks theologically curious youth from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, denominational and religious backgrounds. Youth who have not been formed by specific faith traditions are welcome.  

Scholarships are available!

The application requirements include several short essays, two recommendations and a high school transcript.

For more information, visit the Summer Academy web page or sign up for the mailing list.

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