Our friends at MockingbirdNYC connected us with Cameron Cole and the Rooted Conference, a gathering for youth ministry workers who want to speak truth and meaning into the lives of the young people in their care.

Cameron and I corresponded a bit about the conference and what the hopes of the organizers are for it:

What is the Rooted Conference?
Rooted is a theology conference for student ministers. Rooted comes out of a desire to see the Gospel upheld as the center of student ministry; it has come as a response to the overwhelming concentration on methodology at most conference for youth ministries. Rooted hopes to encourage and equip student ministers in Christ-centered ministry, while also fostering a community of people committed to boldly preaching the Cross to young people.

How does the approach to ministry that you advocate at the Rooted Conference different from what is normally seen in evangelical youth ministry?
Sadly, so much of student ministry can be characterized as a moralistic, Christian pep rally. Many evangelical youth ministries seek to prescribe moral behavior, while providing the emotional motivation to “imitate” Jesus. Rooted views the development of a Gospel-centered belief system in students as the ultimate goal. Through teaching biblical theology and repeatedly encouraging students with the basic Gospel–the intersection of our deep depravity and Christ’s amazing grace–we aim to cultivate life-long followers of Jesus, due to a worldview rooted in message of the Cross.

What do youth ministers need to know in order to be effective and faithful in their calling?
Three words I uphold in effective student ministry are truth, love, and Spirit. By truth, I mean that students need to hear the full, undiluted Gospel, including the depth of their depravity and the greater grace of Jesus. Knowing that Christ’s death on the Cross has set them free from a life of performance is what ultimately will change a student’s life to follow Jesus. With love, I mean that all of the doctrinal truth in the world means very little to young people outside the context of loving relationships. By spirit,  I emphasize the scriptural call for ministers to pray for the Holy Spirit to change the lives of students. While we can love students and teach biblical theology exhaustively, only the Spirit can draw students to the Father and sanctify them.

What is the most important thing parents should consider when considering a youth ministry?
I think the two things parents should focus on are whether the youth ministry does relational ministry and whether the ministry has a vision for long-term spiritual formation based on the cultivation of a Gospel-based belief system. Many parents (and youth ministers) succumb to the allure of youth ministry that will “keep my kids out of trouble.” They think that young people will dive into a life of unfettered debauchery and fervent eroticism if they are not repeatedly told to follow the rules. In truth, law-driven student ministry tends to yield thirty year old agnostics who hate the church, while Gospel-based ministry provides a better chance that a student will become a follower of Jesus in the long run. I emphasize the significance of relational youth ministry because young people of this generation want to be loved and known before they will be open to answers and truth.

How can youth ministry contribute to the great, biblical vision of the church as every tongue, tribe, nation, and age rather than contributing to the demographic and socio-economic division of the church?
Most students live in segregated worlds with little genuine interaction with people unlike them. The messages of integration they hear in the secular world usually lack depth and sound artificial; they come across as impotent law. Student ministry serves as the ideal opportunity for students to have authentic relationships with people across racial and socio-economic lines. Creating opportunities for cross-cultural ministry while teaching the message of God reconciling unlike people to Himself can create a foundation for a less stratified church in the future. In this context young people can cross barriers with love and sincerity, not simply out of the obligation that the AdCouncil public service announcement compelled. This generation of young people yearns for such reconciliation and justice, and student ministers can capitalize on it for the sake of the church’s future.

You can preregister for the Rooted Conference at a reduced rate until June 1! After that, the rate goes up slightly.  And, just in case Cameron’s interview didn’t motivate you to attend, check out what our own Rod Rosenbladt said about this conference:

In an era of “Christless Christianity,” the chances of a student hearing a vigorous presentation and/or defense of historic Christianity are few — in church or on campus.  But to have students hear and embrace this Gospel is to later effect many educated people who never consider darkening the door of a Christian church, don’t see any reason why they should.  As former associate staff of Inter-Varsity, I heartily commend the Cathedral of the Advent’s conference on student ministry.