About Us

We help churches lead students to find and follow Jesus

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A Quick Look at YS

Youth Specialties has been helping Christian churches of every denomination lead students to find and follow Jesus for more than 40 years. Each year we serve more than 100,000 youth workers worldwide through our training seminars, conventions, resources, and online communities. Whether you’re new to youth ministry or a veteran, we’re here to help you.

There’s so much more to tell that we have a whole different page for all the details (or as many as we could fit into the site!).

Get the whole YS story

Stuff we believe

At YS, we realize that many people want us to define what we believe on a variety of important issues. We know it matters, and we want to give you a sense of where we come from as an organization. However, given our mission, simply listing beliefs for an organization like YS is difficult. Let us explain.

NYWC-SanDiego_100413_0094During Jesus’ incarnation, there were many people whose beliefs were aligned with Jesus’, but they were still far from Him. Many believed in keeping the Sabbath, but HOW they kept the Sabbath was very different than the way Jesus did. The rich young ruler held the same belief as Christ regarding the Ten Commandments and yet, he wasn’t able to live like Jesus.

It’s a simple matter to say that Jesus opposes adultery and that we agree with Him. It is quite another matter to figure out how Jesus would love, extend mercy, and hold accountable an adulterer. Even many religious leaders in Jesus’ day got it wrong.

So beliefs for us only do part of the job. The world today is filled with people who share the beliefs of Christ, but many of these people do not resemble Him, even in the slightest, by deed or action.

One of the wonderful and unique qualities of YS is that we are a big tent. It isn’t uncommon to find numerous denominations represented in just a small sampling of participants. We’ve always said, “If you love Jesus, and want to help teenagers find and follow Him, then YS is a safe place for you.”

We know we won’t agree on every issue, but we come together to learn, share, and create. Because we believe that iron sharpens iron, we realize that when we come together, we make each other better. And we all need a safe place like that, don’t we?

When David assembled his army, the men who came from Issachar were those who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12). YS staff members like to think of ourselves as men and women trying to understand the culture and times we live in, so we can know what needs to be done to help teenagers find and follow Jesus.

As far as basic doctrine, YS holds to the Apostle’s Creed as its foundation for orthodoxy; it’s been around a long time, and we affirm it.

NYWC-SanDiego_100413_0061I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

YS recognizes that there are many other theological and moral issues like baptism, creation timelines, women in ministry, sexual identity, tattoos, predestination, election, the second coming, and other things that are important to have thought through.

But at YS, we choose not to make-ministry wide declarations on subjects like these because we primarily create learning environments for a broad audience. The Bible, along with the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, is our guide to discern how our beliefs inform our actions, and while we believe God’s intentions are found in Scripture, we also concede that Scripture affirms humanity’s repeated failure to accurately discern God’s intentions.

So we hold our beliefs firmly, but gently. We believe, as did the Apostle Paul, that we presently see through a glass dimly. We aren’t here to indoctrinate anyone to a specific viewpoint; we respect and value the local church very much, and we think that the local church community is where the decisions on these matters should be made. As far as how we manage our own personnel, we do make narrower declarations regarding purity and holiness that we do not necessarily express in the larger arena of our ministries.

YS is a place to learn from others while sharing from your community’s theology, practice, and tradition with other youth workers doing the same.

The one dogma we unapologetically embrace is the person of Jesus Christ. His extraordinary birth, life, and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified and rose from the dead is at the center of Youth Specialties. As far as everything else, we are curious (even fascinated) to be able to explore together the many other places that spirit, culture, and faith touch as we try to help teenagers find and follow Jesus.

As long as we all agree on the Apostles Creed, these other issues tend to work themselves out and are certainly not worth breaking fellowship over as we try to understand each other more clearly.

You may ask how this influences our choice of speakers and presenters. YS doesn’t exist to affirm and validate everything one might believe, nor assume that any of us have reached perfection. Instead, we seek to offer experiences that cause us to think, stretch, love—characteristics that help us to become more like Jesus.

At our events from time to time, we will invite those with whom even we disagree, and even some who do not profess Christ to share. Why? Because we believe they have insight or expertise that may help us as we help teenagers find and follow Jesus.

IMG_0179_1We believe in living in the difficult tension of love, justice, and grace. We believe that sometimes we learn most when we are out of our comfort zone, and occasionally we create that tension by choosing speakers who have something interesting to say, even if they don’t profess our same beliefs. Jesus made others uncomfortable, and the narrative of Scripture is filled with God’s use of non-believers to accomplish his purpose. This calls us to be careful and responsible as we create an environment where we can all learn.

If you have specific questions, we welcome them, and would be happy to explore more how we can serve you and your efforts to help teens follow Jesus. Feel free to contact us anytime.