This past week I was invited to attend a gathering at Princeton Theological Seminary for a really forward thinking initiative called the 'Youth and Philanthropy Academy'. Over the next couple of days I am going to do a few posts about that "Y.P.A." initiative. This first one will take a look at what the experience looked like and the next couple will look at some of its implications for youth ministry at my local church.
YPA is a pilot program through Princeton Theological that is designed to help foster Kingdom thinking and Kingdom action in students. Students are going to be encouraged to develop and execute on philanthropic ideas in their communities.
The idea has come through a partnership with an organization called, "Giving Point". Giving Point, which is centered in Atlanta, Georgia does this exact kind of work with teenagers from around the United States. Their social media platform has over 10,000 teen followers. The most motivated of these are given coaching and adult help so that those students can bring their philanthropic ideas to life. But, the burden of passion and forward movement always rests with the student. In this way, Giving Point encourages teens as empowered agents of change rather than as passive recipients of adult initiative. Princeton is trying to see if they can create a version of that kind of program through the seminary.
The basic plan is to bring about 15 students to Princeton for a week long summer session. At this YPA experience, students will connect their ideas to their faith and come up with a plan to execute on that plan while collaborating with other students. Here is what the overall framework will look like:
1. A student will apply to go to YPA.
2. Once selected they will fly to Princeton for the Youth and Philanthropy Academy week.
3. At the camp they will receive coaching on how to communicate the idea they are passionate about persuasively and develop a year long plan on executing the idea.
4. From there they will be tasked with going back to their local church and assembling a group of teenagers and adults (maybe from within and from outside of the church) to help with the project. These folks serve as participants and mentors along the way.
5. Princeton will also provide some kind of funding incentive plan for the students. They are still working out how this might work. But, they might get $500 from Princeton if they can raise $500 of funds on their own.
6. Last, if they are successful in executing on that year long plan and assembling that team of adults they will then be invited back to a kind of gala dinner in which they would pitch their idea to groups of folks who would fund the initiatives. They are describing this as a kind of grace filled "Shark Tank".
Each day at the academy students will be given a group session, opportunities to work collaboratively, individual speech coaching, and time for reflection so that they can process what they are learning as well as what God might be saying through their experience. All I can say at this point was that it was a really cool experience and that it is one of the most innovative things I have ever heard of in youth ministry. The group of people in attendance was from a pretty diverse set of backgrounds and Giving Point sent a couple of their representatives and two high school students who are actively working on projects. The students were amazing. I was blown away. There have been many students over the years that have impressed me. I have never met a student that has truly floored me. These two did. They had both high social intellegence and intellectual intelligence. It was amazing. I plan on trying to send one or two of our students this Summer if we can. More on how this impacts my local ministry in my next post.