Marking its 50th year of preparing men and women to serve in youth ministry, Southwestern Seminary’s Youth Ministry Lab (YML) welcomed renowned speakers, professors and church leaders for worship and breakout sessions at Southwestern Seminary, April 6-7. The conference theme this year was “Generations,” taken from Psalm 79:13: “So we your people and the sheep of your pasture will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise.”

More than 50 Southwestern students organized and conducted the conference under the leadership of co-chairmen Christian Stringer and Patrick Janson. Justin Buchanan, assistant professor of student ministry and author of the book Guys and Lies, took the lead faculty role. “In 1968, Youth Ministry Lab began when a student had the idea and desired to see college students serving as summer youth ministers equipped to serve the local church,” Buchanan said. “Fifty years later, the impact of Youth Ministry Lab continues to be seen as evidenced by this year’s conference.”

YML first sharpens ministry skills by assigning the event’s planning to seminary students. Then, it combines powerful worship, five hours of cutting-edge training, and fellowship, all aimed at sharing fresh new options to help youth ministers pursue Christ with a young generation. “It is the only major training event in the nation planned and conducted by seminary students,” said Buchanan. “Some leadership roles were one semester, and some were a full calendar year.”

Chip Luter, pastor of the Sulphur Springs campus of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa, Fla., area and a frequent speaker at major youth ministry conferences, was the main conference speaker; and Sixteen Cities led in worship through music. Beyond the main worship services, breakout sessions were conducted for adults and teenagers. Speakers included Southwestern professors Justin Buchanan, Richard Ross, Travis Dickson, and Evan Lenow, as well as speakers Brett Kunkle, Greg Stier, Rob Rienow, and others. 

Attendees at this year’s conference came from more than 80 churches across the United States. There were a total of 535 in attendance, with at least three professions of faith, Buchanan said. Additionally, at least seven rededicated their lives to serve Christ, and at least three said they hope to dedicate their lives to vocational Gospel ministry.

Buchanan shared feedback from some of those attending the conference, highlighting its impact on individuals: “You provided an atmosphere for some needed time away to meet with God”; “Prayer is the greatest thing you could have given us”; and “Thanks. The Lord spoke several things and even a huge thing or two into my heart!”