Kansas City…a new hub for youth ministry?

Last week I was able to visit Kansas City, Missouri for five days.

What in the world is happening in Missouri you may ask?

There are some incredible, ground breaking, and innovative ministry happening in KC.  I was excited to be a part of the voices being represented, but wanted to go there myself to see what it’s all about.

KC is quickly being a hub of sorts….men and women with deep theological insight and tremendous passion for student ministry rethinking…..

Camp ministry

Church

Community development

Youth worker development

Curriculum for Christian ministry

Spiritual formation for students

There are some great thinkers and practitioners involved in these conversations.  Many are interconnected and partner with each other, which brings a certain level of trust, collaboration, and collective vision.

Youthfront is really on the forefront of ushering in a new wave of camp ministry.   A dedicated, united, (and fun) team/family of passionate and gifted youth workers under the direction and spiritual leadership of Mike King follow Mike on Twitter are rethinking old philosophies and structure of camp ministry. I was able to visit their two campuses and witness firsthand the transformation of physical space into sacred places of spiritual formation.  The direction and vision are focussed on intentionality of spiritual formation, rather than attractions and programmatic.  They write their own content for the summer camps and additionally are produced some of the best curriculum and resources for camps and youth workers.

One of the main premises and dreams of Youthfront is to provide students opportunities to do life together and listen to God’s voice. Creating, nurturing, and allowing freedom for students to encounter God’s presence in real life.

Youthfront

Many of staff at Youthfront attend Jacob’s Well church, which is probably the most refreshing and intentional faith community I have seen.

Located in an old brick Presbyterian building in the center of midtown KC, they have reclaimed the physical space in the building and breathed new life.  The children’s program is by far the most innovative I have seen.  Storytelling, communal sharing, interactive learning, creative arts, sacred space for kids, etc…

The community has great aesthetic atmosphere and deeply values and includes all members of the family in worship and community life.

There is a focus on the eucharist, daily office, and learner style teaching on Sundays. The word on the street is that the music, led by Mike Crawford is profound, earthy, real,  musically amazing.

Mike Crawford music

Here is a brief blurb from their site….

“Welcome to Jacob’s Well. Thanks for joining us here.
Jacob’s Well began with a handful of people in 1998. We are joined together around a dream and a call to build a community in midtown Kansas City with Jesus Christ at the center. Our desire is that we would be an authentic, biblical community where people experience and express the reality of God’s love in the way of Jesus.

Our name reflects our dream and our mission. In the New Testament book of John, Jesus encounters a woman who is at the fringes of her culture, a woman with great hunger and great need. Jesus reaches out to her and invites her into his life and kingdom. In so doing she becomes a part of a new community. In the same way, Jacob’s Well is striving to be a place — like the biblical Jacob’s Well — where people who are searching can encounter God and find a place in his kingdom and community and join him in his work in the world.”

The focal of service and gathered worship is the eucharist, daily office, and learner-style teaching on Sundays with time constructed each service for the community to share their thoughts about the Scripture reading.

Jacob\’s Well church

Another visit while in KC was to the The House Studio, a very creative and artistic group working to create culture in Christianity.

The House Studio creates, comments on, and shapes the Church’s ongoing conversation—taking seriously good stories and making them available to faith communities.

The office is in a….wait for it….house!

It is located right across the street from the main headquarters of the Nazarene Publishing House

The good people at the House are pursuing a way of life together in intentional community

Their words:  “We publish. Not because this world needs more books. Not because the Church needs more resources. We publish because God is still telling stories.”

The House Studio

NPH (Nazarene Publishing House) was quite impressive. I was able to get a tour of the operations from ideas, marketing, publication, processing, shipping.  I am really honored and excited to be working with them to produced a number of forthcoming books and projects.

I had never been inside a major publishing house before, and it is quite extensive what goes into the inner workings.  Though part of a denomination, NPH is expanding its vision and reach and collaborating with a wide variety of authors and ministry partners.

NPH- youth ministry resources

The ministry in KC that I have personally supported and now partner with is Barefoot Ministries.  Under the leadership and vision of Chris Folmsbee,  follow Chris on Twitter Barefoot is really leading the way in producing great resources for youth ministry, as well as spiritual formation for students, and youth worker training.

In my opinion it is on the leading edge of creating thoughtful, innovate, and helpful resources for the church.   At my church, we use Barefoot products for part of our Sunday AM teaching time, spiritual formation and missions with our students, and all of our youth worker training.

Barefoot Ministries

Another cool thing I was able to learn about during my time in KC is an intentional community development project in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City.

Youthfront and Barefoot staff and friends are intentionally moving from the suburbs into this neighborhood to bring hope, redevelopment, social justice and advocacy.  They are seeking and working towards the ushering in of God’s kingdom-working in and for this community.

I was able to stay with one of the couples in their home during my time in KC and really appreciate their passion and long-term vision for the area.  One of the members  wrote a thoughtful piece on his blog regarding the reason he and his wife chose to move there.  It is well worth the read.

Aaron Mitchum\’s blog

*One final note:  If you do happen to visit KC, you must eat BBQ.  I have tasted some good meats in other places such as Dallas and Nashville, but nothing is quite like what you will find in Kansas City.  It is very much a passion and art for the fine folk there, and they take their craft very seriously.  I was amazed and impressed at how intensive and complex the process of smoking meat was, plus the importance of selecting (or making) the proper rub, spices, and sauces.

I ate too much that week, but it also was well worth it

And for the record, I do think Oklahoma Joes is the best!

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4 thoughts on “Kansas City…a new hub for youth ministry?

  1. Great post. I have a couple of friends in youth ministry in Overland Park near KC. Tim Ciccone is a high school pastor, writer and speaker (through Barefoot), and recently wrote a great book called “In Transit”.

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