Theo and YM Audio Files

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, spiritual disciplines, Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2014 by Walter

There are many who have requested the MP3s of the general session and break out sessions from Lipscomb University’s Youth Ministry Conference, “Theology & Youth Ministry.”(Links below)  It was a great day where over 130 youth workers, students, and church leaders gathered to wrestle with the large idea of “Why?” Theology demands that we ask “WHY?” of all we do in our ministry.  Please set aside March 3, 2015 for our next conference—We will give more details soon on this.

It was great getting to hear from the following speakers:

Andrew Root, PhD.

Andrew-Root-BIOPhoto-1Andrew Root, PhD (Princeton Theological Seminary) is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary. He is the author of The Relational Pastor (IVP, 2013) as well as a four book series with Zondervan called A Theological Journey Through Youth Ministry (titles include Taking Theology to Youth Ministry, Taking the Cross to Youth Ministry, Unpacking Scripture in Youth Ministry, and Unlocking Mission and Eschatology in Youth Ministry).  He is also the author of the 2012 Christianity Today Book of Merit award for The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry (with Kenda Creasy Dean, IVP, 2011).   Andy has worked in congregations, parachurch ministries, and social service programs. He lives in St. Paul with his wife Kara, two children, Owen and Maisy, and their two dogs. When not reading, writing, or teaching, Andy spends far too much time watching TV and movies.

Lauren Smelser White

LaurenLauren holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English from Harding and Abilene Christian Universities (respectively); she also has a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Vanderbilt University, where she is currently a third-year doctoral student in Theological Studies and a Fellow in Theology and Practice. Her work focuses on the intersections of systematic theology and literary theory so as to think critically about the overlap of scriptural interpretation, spiritual formation, and revelation. Practically speaking, she is interested in resourcing the Christian tradition and imagination to aid conservative Christians in developing renewed yet scripturally-faithful understandings of religious pluralism, gender roles, and relations with secular culture. Lauren and her husband Jason are excitedly anticipating the birth of their first child, a girl, in early May.


Chris Gonzalez, PhD @FajitaBoy  

ChrisChris Gonzalez is the husband of one wife, the father of two teens and is a believer in all youth. His career has taken a winding path through teaching 7th grade English in public schools, youth ministry in a local church, and marriage and family therapy in a small non-profit – with the common thread being engagement with youth. He did his doctoral studies in Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota studying Positive Youth Development. His current research project is to study Positive Youth Development with former child slaves in Ghana. His current position is director of the Marriage and Family Therapy masters program at Lipscomb University.

George Goldman, PhD @goldmange

GEGeorge has taught in the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb since 1998 and currently serves as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Bible. George has a Ph.D. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, an M.Div. from Harding Graduate School and an M.A. and B.A. from Lipscomb. He is a part-time campus minister at Vanderbilt, and often teaches Bible classes at the Otter Creek Church of Christ. George is married to Wendy and they have two daughters, Shannon (16) and Lauren (14), and one son Nathan (5).




First Day of School Prayer!

Posted in Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , on August 16, 2014 by Walter

IMG_0405.PNGToday is the first day of classes for Lipscomb.  The first day of a school year is always pregnant with hope. Hope that this will be a better year. Hope that students will stay on top of their homework and reading. Hope that things will be different…better.  Here is a prayer for my students:

Father as we enter a new academic year I invite You to be impossible to ignore in the classroom.  May students see Your Creativity in the wonder of discovery as students are introduced to new ideas and concepts.

I praise You for the minds that want to be pushed, prodded, filled and challenged.  May they see You in the new information, discoveries, knowledge and wisdom.

I praise You for the relationships that will be formed between student and teacher.  May they begin a journey  of learning together that lasts a lifetime.

For those students that will experience loss, grief, struggle, discouragement, and doubt, will you send an extra measure of comfort and peace into their souls?  Please send teachers and classmates around those who are hurting to offer compassion and support.

May we all recognize that the classroom is truly Holy Ground.  May we see something transcendant when teacher and student gather together to seek knowledge and understand the extraordinary and truly awesome privilege it is to study in an institution of higher learning such as Lipscomb.  May we not take for granted the blessing that literally billions of others on earth would like.  Give us the discipline and self-control to take in all that this academic year has to offer in our readings, classes, activities, discussions, seminars, labs, and more have to offer.  

May You illuminate us with the light of knowledge and may that Truth we discern and discover this year set us free to help those who are oppressed, needy, hungry, naked, and lost.

Give my students the wisdom to know the meaning and purpose of their lives and learning so their knowledge, skills and gifts be able to make Your Kingdom a better place for your greater glory.

Grant me patience for the students who need that little bit extra.  Give me the ability to be fully present for every class, lecture, conversation and office meeting so that I can serve those around me in the best way possible.

May I learn more from my students than I have ever before and grant me new perspectives to places that have become overly familiar.  

May we be able to look back at this year and be able to undeniably praise You for all the growth that we have experienced through this year.



.::Faith-Forward Conference

Posted in adolescence, Parenting Teens, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , on August 15, 2014 by Walter

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.21.22 PMA few years back I was on Twitter and started seeing all sorts of posts from a conference that was called, ““Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity.”  I was disappointed that I had missed any promotion of it.  Well CYANKC was rebranded Faith Forward.  I had the privilege to present a session at the conference this past May as it was held here in Nashville.  It was one of the highlights of my conference-going (and I have been to a lot of conferences!)  During the three day conference fresh ideas swirled around session after session, but there were several things that remained at the core of Faith Forward:

  • Children and Youth Ministers Gathered for Collaboration–So often we tend to operate in silos unaware of what the other is doing.  Collaboration is so vital for success.  The diversity of people Faith Forward has brought together was one of my favorite parts of this conference.  I got to meet and network with people from countless backgrounds with amazing ideas that helped sharpen me.
  • A Refocusing on Family Connection to Ministry–Student ministries have left out mom and dad and other generations for far too long.  It is refreshing to see intergenerational, family ministry discussion come into the main stream conversation.  Faith forward has brought people like Brian Mclaren, Tony  Campolo and Phyllis Tickle to speak on this vital issue for the church.
  • A BIG emphasis on Theology…bringing the question of “Why?” to our ministries–Youth Ministry needs to be able to answer the question of “Why?” in order to take our families to the depths that are available to us in Christ.  Faith Forward is bringing some great theologians together to share their work.

If you are looking for a conference that is fresh and full of new ideas to give you vision and substance, then I would recommend that you consider attending Faith Forward in 2015 in Chicago.

.::MITS: Generational Change

Posted in adolescence, Ministry, MITS, what matters, youth ministry with tags , , on August 14, 2014 by Walter

When the movie “Gladiator” came out in 2000, youth ministers all over the country used this quote from the movie to motivate students to make what happens here, count in the future.  I will admit that I was one who used the clip more than once in class.  Its a great clip.  Made In The Streets will be echoing LOUDLY in eternity.

When I was at MITS in Nairobi Kenya, this summer, I heard they had approximately 300 graduates over they 19 year history.  If I am honest, the Westerner in me thought that number was a little low.  Couldn’t the number be something like 1000?  After all, we LOVE big numbers in the USA.  But then I was given a different perspective by one of my team members, Steve Sherman.  He talked about the generational change that MITS is creating.

Imagine the change that those 300 lives will have when THEY have children of their own who are likely to NOT have to live on the streets because of the education, skills and network that MITS has given them!  When those 300 graduates marry and have their own family, those families will be different because they have been

“…lifted out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set their feet on a rock
    and gave them a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in their mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.”

(Psalm 40)

These are lives that do sing praise to God!

When Amy was teaching one her classes, she asked her students what were some of their goals when they graduated MITS?  Over and over students wrote they wanted to give back to MITS financially and with their time.  How incredible is that?

What a way to sing praise to God!

What a way to grow the change that MITS is echoing in eternity!

I imagine just two generations from now the 1200, 1500 lives that are radically changed because MITS has made a difference in these 300.  What is even MORE exciting is that MITS continues to GROW!  More and more students are being given a chance to get off the streets of Eastleigh and begin life anew.  So that generational change will probably only grow!

Please learn more about Made In The Streets by going to


Posted in adolescence, MITS, youth ministry on August 13, 2014 by Walter

IMG_1924Made in the Streets is truly SAVING lives. During my time in Nairobi, I had the opportunity to visit some of the bases in the Eastleigh neighborhood where many of the MITS students come from.  A base is a group of mainly boys who are homeless that live together in a loose community.  Older boys send out younger boys to scavenge for food and money through either gathering plastics or metals in the trash dumps or through stealing.  It is a difficult, difficult life.  Many of the boys are addicted to glue.  This is not Elmer’s glue that is non-toxic.  This is the hard stuff–industrial glue used to repair shoes.  It is potent and attacks the central nervous system so that those who huff it do not have to feel the cold or the hunger that a life of poverty has forced upon them.

These are the kinds of lives that MITS is saving.  

The staff of MITS goes out to the bases they know of and build relationships with the guys and girls there.  They share the gospel with them and tell them about the different programs that they have for them at the Eastleigh center.  It is here they can get a shower or do some laundry and get a little respite from the drudgery of life on the streets.  Those students who come back week after week and show initiative and desire for change are the ones they matriculate into the farm and school at Kamulu after going through the requisite paperwork for guardianship.  It is a wonderful partnership.  The students who want to be saved are given the opportunity for the safety, education and training required for success in life.

The students I met at the bases are in the midst of a difficult, terrible life.  A life of wondering where the next meal comes from literally.  A life of hunger, addiction, and poverty both physical and spiritual.  A life that generally stoops to crime for survival.  When I met with them, most of them were in a stupor because of the glue or airplane fuel they were sniffing.  They were barely coherent.  I kept thinking these are teens who have been forgotten, lost, abandoned…hurt.  No adults to care for them.  No family infrastructure to protect them.  But this is where Made in the Streets steps in and provides family, safety and education.

Made In The Streets showed me first hand REAL Youth Ministry.  I was told that MITS was one of only three organizations that work with adolescent age students in Nairobi.  Most non-profits work with infants and toddlers, but so many teens are forgotten and left to fend for themselves.  Most of the students I met looked so much younger than they really were because of the growth stunt that the glue and the malnutrition has caused in them.  Kids who have already lived lives of adults.

But at MITS, life there is so different for them.  There is structure, safety, love, good news and family that is freely given in order for them to be given the opportunity to thrive and grow into the men and women God created them to be that the streets tried to beat out of them.  There now exists a sparkle in the once cloudy eyes that glimmer a bright hope.  A hope that they know what it takes to make it and they will.  When they sing of hope in chapel, they SING of HOPE.  The students of MITS sing of a ” hope [that] does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5)


Please learn more about Made In The Streets by going to

My Brief History with MITS

Posted in Uncategorized on August 11, 2014 by Walter

IMG_1918This past month I had the blessing to working with Made in the Streets Ministry again with my entire family.  I have had the rich blessing of knowing about MITS before it was even born. Amy and I were in a Bible study with Charles and Darlene’s daughter when one night she said, “I am freaking out because my parents are thinking of moving to Africa!”

Well Charles & Darlene DID move to Africa to work with KCITI, a technical school in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi. While working there, they noticed all these street kids around the school and God put on their hearts to start working with these needy souls that everyone else had seemed to have forgotten.

That was almost twenty years ago when they first opened the doors to hundreds of street kids hungry for food, friendship and the gospel.

God undoubtedly had something in mind when I met Amy just AFTER she had spent a year in Kenya. It wouldn’t be for another four months when we would first go out on a date and she told me story after story of what life and ministry was like in Kenya. I could not wait to go to see what she was talking about.  A seed for Kenya had been planted in my heart…

Then God took us to the Campbell Church where Garry and Gini Bortz were sent to spend a month in Eastleigh to help equip Charles and Darlene with tools to effectively minister to the hundreds of street kids that God was bringing to them on a regular basis. From that we continued to hear story after story of what God was doing with the Made in the Streets Ministry.

The Campbell Church would be the church that built the learning center, equip it with a woodworking classroom, and build a playground for the community in Kamulu.  It would not be until 2006 that I would finally have the opportunity to travel to Nairobi and see Made in the Streets firsthand.

Fast forward to July 2014 and this is where my most recent chapter with MITS has been written.  From August of 1995 till today, my life has been changed by the people and the ministry that is happening at MITS.  Made In The Street will celebrate 20 years since its first official event next August.  In the past 19 years God has done tremendous and amazing things for the street kids of Nairobi.  If you are unfamiliar with what MITS is and what it is doing, I highly encourage you to learn more about it and see how you can help with their ministry.


  • MITS is TRULY saving lives.  Walking the streets of Eastleigh, you can see first hand how fragile life is.
  • God has placed some of the most faithful, gracious, selfless, generous and love-filled people to work at MITS.
  • There is REAL life change happening at MITS as they take glue-addicted, homeless teens, love them and educate them with vital life skills and most importantly, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with them.
  • We cannot measure the generational effect that MITS will have caused.  Just think about how many lives in the future will be changed as these students and staff of MITS have their own children, and their children have children.  What kind of exponential change will have been caused through the saving of these lives?

Well, that is enough for today, I will write more on this in the weeks to come…

Please learn more about Made In The Streets by going to

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2012 by Walter

CBM-12-007 Youth Ministry PCLife is changing at breakneck speeds everywhere we turn. Tomorrow seems to be here today. The adolescents in our ministries seem to be the most affected by these changes. Research shows how the process of adolescence is lengthening both culturally and biologically.

How does the church respond best to these changes? How are youth ministries contributing to these changes? What is the best way to help our teens mature in faith?

Join other Youth Ministers, Elders, Volunteers, Parents of Teens and Church Leaders as we investigate these and many other questions at “Teen 2.0.”

Early Registration $68 ($80 after February 1) For every three paid registrations from the same church the fourth comes free! Includes lunch and continental breakfast.

For information, call 615-966-5787 or visit