A new conference at Southwestern Seminary’s annual Youth Ministry Lab April 7-8 will offer instruction and insight into volunteer youth ministry programs for pastors of small churches and their key volunteers. The event is held each year on the campus of the Fort Worth seminary and is organized entirely by students and seminary professors. Speakers at the event include the top student ministry trainers in the nation.

Pastors of small churches often work with volunteer youth leaders and with small budgets for youth ministry. The conference will feature Richard Ross, one of the principal architects of the global True Love Waits sexual abstinence campaign and a professor of student ministry at Southwestern, and Professors Wes Black and Johnny Derouen, also of Southwestern. Each of the professors has led student ministry in smaller churches and will provide insight into the manner in which small churches can develop consistently high-quality ministries with teenagers and families.

“Pastors are busy and every minute of their time is precious,” Ross said. “But I honestly believe those who will give us 24 hours for intensive training and direction will experience years of more vibrant student ministry.”

The conference for pastors and volunteers in small churches will feature sessions on the role of key volunteers in youth ministry, highly effective events and ministries in the smaller church, action plans for building church support of the student ministry, and also a session on developing a prayer strategy for student ministry. Wes Black said the professors’ goal is to ensure that every aspect of the conference relates to smaller churches.

But the conference for small churches is only one of the conferences scheduled for Youth Ministry Lab. Other sessions will focus on youth ministry in larger churches, student ministry, student praise bands, student leadership, adult volunteers in youth ministry, and training for international missions experiences.

A first ever event at this year’s Youth Ministry Lab will be the reality evangelism experience, a time when students who are participating in the lab will enter Rosemont Middle School on a Saturday afternoon. Derouen said the school’s cafeteria, gym, classrooms and hallways will be filled with 100 Christian teenagers trained to act like the spiritually lost.

“These ‘lost’ students will represent the entire spectrum of teenagers, from the socially elite to the loner,” Derouen said.

Students will move through a compressed school day at Rosemont and will have multiple opportunities to practice sharing their faith and observe creative evangelistic methods.

Last year, more than 1,200 students, parents, youth ministers and pastors attended the weekend lab. Organizers anticipate an equal number this year.

Speakers at the 2006 Youth Ministry Lab include Doug Fields, student pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., near San Diego; Ken Davis, a motivational speaker and communicator from Nashville, Tenn.; Allen Jackson, professor of student ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Mark Matlock, founder of Wisdom Works Ministries; and Emir Caner, a former Muslim who is now dean of The College at Southwestern, the seminary’s undergraduate institution. The Joel Engle Band will lead the lab’s worship sessions.

For more information on the 2006 Youth Ministry Lab, log onto www.swbts.edu/youth lab or www.sbcstudents.com, or call 817-923-1921 ext. 6239.