Workshops 2015

“Transforming Polarization into Discipleship” with Dr. Rob Barrett

We live in times of unprecedented polarization. Our culture presses us to sort ourselves according to binary choices. Gay marriage: yes or no? FOXNews or MSNBC? Bible: accurate or myth? Young people bring these questions to church as they search for models of Christian discipleship worth following. When we at church accept the questions and insist on one of the proffered answers, we confirm the critique of the young that we are shallow, simplistic, and judgmental, with no room for disagreement. When we dodge the questions, we present the gospel as fearful and fragile. But Jesus offers us a way forward; he was unafraid to engage the questions of his day, though he refused to answer them as posed. Pay taxes to Caesar? Stone the adulteress or embrace immorality? Rather than creating polarized factions by choosing A or B, he transformed the questions into invitations into lifelong discipleship. The Colossian Forum has spent the past several years developing a spiritual practice around engaging our most divisive and fearful questions as a way of forming unlikely communities of disciples. By transforming our most polarizing questions into crucibles for spiritual formation, we avoid both splintering divisions and bland tolerance. Polarizing questions then help us build what young people are looking for: serious, convicted, committed, evangelistic, caring, and discerning intergenerational communities, examples worth following. In this workshop, we will discuss this practice and its possibilities using sexuality as an example.

Rob Barrett is Director of Forums and Scholarship at The Colossian Forum. Rob has PhDs both in Applied Physics from Stanford University and Theology from Durham University in England. He worked as a research scientist at IBM for over ten years, as a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in England, and most recently as a postdoctoral researcher of Old Testament in Göttingen, Germany. Rob has numerous publications in fields ranging from biblical studies to physics, data storage technology, and human-computer interaction. His varied background is unified by his longstanding interest in the intersection of faith, Bible, science/technology, and culture. Rob and his wife Crystal have two young children.

The Colossian Forum (TCF) aims to reclaim the stunning truth that “all things hold together in Christ” (Col. 1:17) by facilitating dialogue on divisive topics and approaching differing perspectives as opportunities to build community, expand knowledge, and deepen faith.

“Congregations as Ecologies of Formational Practice” with Dr. Fred Edie

This workshop explores the relationship between Christian worship, imagination, and the life of discipleship. It will show how these practices are mutually interpretive and interdependent. It further seeks to illuminate the need for “catechetical cultures” consisting of adults and youth living together by and through Christian practices if the object is discipleship. Finally, it will paint pictures of what such communities might look like as young and old together learn to follow the way of Jesus.

Fred Edie teaches Christian Education and Youth Ministry at Duke Divinity School. He is faculty advisor to Duke’s Youth Academy for Christian Formation. He is married with two semi-independent adult children and one totally dependent dog named Stella. Together (minus the dog) the family cycled and camped around Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park last summer.

“Churches, Home, and Friends: A Reflective Conversation” with Noah Lau Branson, Mark Lau Branson, Nina Lau-Branson

This workshop is an interactive conversation between a mother (Nina), father (Mark), and their grown son (Noah). It will flow out of the Noah’s experiences of being formed in two churches growing up, including formative practices that shaped him, key aspects of home life, interactions with peers, and relationships with adults and various age-specific activities. Key points of reflection will include participating in mission trips, worshipping through music, praying, sharing meals, serving members of their church, and constantly observing the life of his parents and their friends.

Noah is a Doctor of Psychology student at Fuller Seminary’s School of Psychology and frequent participant at EP. Noah has been a worship leader at Azusa Pacific University and at a United Methodist church. Nina is a spiritual director and a mom with two adult sons living at home. Mark is a professor at Fuller Seminary and published author (including Churches, Cultures, and Leadership, with Juan Martinez). Mark and Nina are coaches/consultants with The Missional Network. Mark has served for 6 years on the EP Board.

“Loving Your Neighbor: The Challenge of Reaching Nearby Young People” with Abby Richards of Church of Reconciliation and Jeremy Kissling of Delta Community Christian Church. 

What happens when a congregation tries to reach out to the youth who are their neighbors and who are not part of a church?  There are successes, failures, and challenges. Come hear the stories of two different congregations who are working on relationships with the young people around them.  This workshop will offer a space for conversation among attendees.

Abby Richards is the Minister to Youth and Children at Church of Reconciliation in San Antonio, TX.  She has spent the last 9 years working in this welcoming community of Episcopalians situated in the midst of lower-income apartments and million dollar homes.   Over the last five years this congregation has begun to focus their efforts on missional ministry to the neighborhood.  Though this provides many challenges, and certainly a unique youth group, it’s an incredibly exciting and rewarding place to be and serve.   Abby was born and raised in Wisconsin, and received her BA from Briercrest College in Saskatechenwan, Canada where she studied Bible and Theology.  She and her husband, Greg, have four kids: Ellen (6), Colette (9), Calvin (12) and Josh (14).  Together with Greg, a minister to college students in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, they minster with people ages 0 through 25!  Abby is excited to be at Ekklesia Project this year, and is looking forward to meeting other youth workers and exchanging joys, challenges, and ideas for how to better love and serve all youth and their families.

Jeremy Kissling is a stay at home Dad who has been a member of Delta Community Christian Church since 2003. He helped design and implement the first children’s program at Delta and has been involved in discipling youth in many ways. His passion for youth has been a major part of his ministry and family life. He and his wife Erica have been foster parents and have one adopted daughter, Bethann, who is four years old. Delta Community Christian Church is a house church with multiple groups located in Lansing, MI near Great Lake Christian College. They operate without paid staff or buildings in order to free up finances for other ministry opportunities. Delta’s practices include decision making by consensus, commitment to a written covenant, and the sharing of resources as well as life together.

Film Discussion: Soul Searching: A Movie About Teenagers and God (2007)

* A documentary film based on the book Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Produced by Revelation Studios, Directed by Richard Eaton & Michael Eaton, Co-Directed by Christian Smith.
* “Find out what these teenagers really think about God and religion, what their hopes and aspirations are, and what the research says about the effects of religion on their lives”
* Based on extensive research conducted by the National Study of Youth and Religion. * Those wishing to participate in this workshop are encouraged to watch it in advance
* Rent for $1.99 (digital) or buy for $9.99 (digital) or $15.49 (DVD) at by following this link: “Soul Searching” .

Continued Conversation with Hopwood and Redeemer

Our Friday afternoon plenary will feature how two congregations approach the formation of youth: Hopwood Memorial Christian Church and Redeemer Community Church. We expect that many people will want to continue the conversation that this plenary will begin. So our second cluster of workshops will allow people to stick around and ask further questions of several representatives of these congregations.