Youth Worker’s Academy in Oklahoma Conference has achieved special status with the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM).
The study course has secured approval as a paraprofessional certification program for adults called to youth ministry in The United Methodist Church. The accreditation followed a visit to Oklahoma in November by GBHEM leaders from Nashville, Tenn.
The approval means Oklahoma’s specialized training can be extended to youth ministry workers throughout the denomination.
Leslie Long and Diana Northcutt established the academy in 2007.
"Think of the developmental and spiritual growth that takes place over the sixth- through 12th-grade years," said Rev. Dr. Long. "These are important years to nurture and educate youth in the church, and we cannot take the task lightly. Quality youth programs have long-term effects on individuals, helping them grow in their faith; bad youth programs can push individuals farther away from the church.
"It is so important for our churches to take training seriously for those working with youth."
For workers in youth ministry, whether volunteers or paid staff, the two clergywomen designed classes on understanding the Bible, United Methodist beliefs, developmental information, safe sanctuary practices, issues youth face, and cultural trends, among other topics.
The Track 1 and Track 2 training extend over two years. Each takes place over four weekends at Canyon Camp.
"We invest much in the training of our pastors. It seems just as essential that we take the ministry of our children and youth as seriously," Long said.
"It is a responsibility given to us at ordination and given to the Church to provide training for our youth and children, to help them know Jesus Christ." (Book of Discipline, paragraph 226.4)
Rev. Northcutt said Oklahoma’s academy is only the second such accredited UM program in the nation.
"We average 12 in a class, and have had up to 18 people," she said. "We’re small enough to have a lot of interaction, relatively inexpensive, and we’re centrally located."
She explained there are two ways to receive certification in specialized ministry in the Church. One requires a college degree.
"A paraprofessional doesn’t want the college degree but wants certification in an area," Northcutt said. "Now, after they complete our two-year academy, they can apply."
The process includes interviews with the Oklahoma Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and the GBHEM board.
Academy registrar is Long, who also is the UM campus minister for the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond. Contact her at: 405-341-5450, firstname.lastname@example.org.