Youth Nexus Transforms Young People Around the Country

Making Connections

CHICAGO, IL (May 31, 2007) – John Weborg captivated thousands of students during his tenure as professor at North Park Theological Seminary. Now in his retirement, he continues to minister - in this case, to high school students participating in the Youth Nexus program.

"He leads worship in the morning and then takes them to a retreat center for the day," says Mary Miller, director of the Making Connections Initiative. They spend the day in prayer and exploring different spiritual disciplines. "That is always their favorite day!"

The weeklong Youth Nexus program engages students and their youth leaders in theology and real-life situations with the intent of inspiring dialogue and transformation. "The spiritual integration really impacts them," Miller says.

Dates for this year's programs are June 24-30 and July 8-14. The Seminary operates the program through the Making Connections Initiative, which is funded by a Lilly Endowment grant.

Students come from varied backgrounds, which add to the richness of the week. "It gives them an opportunity to share different points of views and learn from others," Miller says.

All youth leaders (clergy or laity) in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the denomination that owns North Park, may apply with one or two students who are entering their junior or senior year of high school. Approximately 30 participants are selected. "We hope that it will help them be better leaders in their youth groups," Miller says.

A different theme is emphasized each day. Mornings begins with worship and teaching from a Seminary professor on that day's theme.

In the afternoon, participants experience a community organization that is a real-world expression of the same theme. The experience is not revealed until the participants arrive. Evenings are left for organized trips to Chicago attractions.

Laura Carlson, a 2006 participant from Lindsborg, Kan., was moved by the group's visit to the Cook Country Correctional Jail. She was shocked to learn many of the inmates were younger than her. "It has really made me think of how I have taken things for granted."

Shelly Manhart, a 2006 participant who attends Zion Covenant Church in Jamestown, N.Y., said learned the importance of seeing the Bible as an overarching story and hearing the stories of people. "If you get people telling their stories, you can always see God at work," she explained.

Contact: Stan Friedman