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Jan. 21, 2003


DALLAS (SMU) -- Veteran youth minister Doug Fields says youth directors and workers must identify their struggles in ministry to overcome the "thorns that distract, anger and deplete" them. Proactively recognizing and dealing with ministry pitfalls will help ministers avoid burnout and ineffectiveness, he said.

Fields was the keynote speaker for the Perkins School of Theology's School of Youth Ministry last week in Dallas. The annual weeklong conference was attended by more than 260 church youth ministers and youth workers from throughout the United States.

Fields, the author of more than 25 books including Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry: A Personal and Practical Guide to Starting Right, revealed that in his own experience the thorns of comparison, approval, pressure for numbers and spiritual freshness have plagued his ministry.

"Youth ministry is tough, and when it gets dark we begin to question our call," says Fields, pastor to students at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., since 1992. "We can feel hurt, defeated, tired, misunderstood and alone. But we are not alone, and I can't think of anything better in the church than telling the good news to youth."

The 17th annual youth ministry school was held from Jan. 10-17 near the SMU campus at Highland Park United Methodist Church. Seminary faculty and veteran youth workers taught nearly 30 courses during the conference for experienced and beginning youth ministers. Courses included "Teaching Confirmation," led by United Methodist curriculum writers Walt Marcum and John Gooch; "Understanding Christian Ethics," taught by Robin Lovin, SMU's Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics; and "Teaching Human Sexuality" with youth minister and author Mike Ratliff.

Perkins School of Theology, one of the original schools of Southern Methodist University, was founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, now called The United Methodist Church. Perkins is one of five university-related United Methodist theological schools in the nation. Besides its programs at the main campus in Dallas, Perkins offers programs in Houston-Galveston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.