The landscape of youth ministry is changing.

Anyone who’s been in youth ministry awhile shares some ongoing frustrations: Families are busy. Programs are not attended like they once were. It’s not clear that programs even work. What you have observed at your church is backed up by cross-denominational research: programs don’t build faith. Relationships build faith. For a long time we thought that relationships would form naturally through the programs. We see that it doesn’t happen often enough. Meanwhile, families slip away.
What if we worked together to go beyond programs as the vessel for relationships to a place where young people are connected through deep, sustainable, faith-nurturing relationships like never before?

Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me.

Psalm 139:1

The Youth Ministry Change Project gathers veteran youth workers  into a Networked Learning Community. Using a proven process that has lead to transformational, system-wide change in areas such as health care and public education, we’ll spend a full year together exploring one vexing issue from all angles. We’ll design solutions that meet the needs of our local congregations. We’ll measure our results, refine our ideas, and try again. We’ll learn from one another and will pool our learning into an ebook. We’ll look at developmental relationships research as our framework. We know the types of relationships that kids really need. How do we really, truly do youth ministry that is built on developmental relationships instead of programs? How do youth know that they are KNOWN?

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” – John 17:24-26

Throughout scripture, Jesus invites us into a relationship where we are known and loved in spite of the messiness of our lives. As ministry leaders, we are called to invite others into that relationship. Join us to discover new pathways for ministry.

Trying things alone hasn’t worked. Trying things together and learning from one another bears great fruit.

If you’ve been in youth ministry more than five years and you are ready to make systemic changes in your ministry and for the sake of the larger church, consider joining us for our two day Summit.


What is the goal of this project?



In order to assist Youth Ministry in churches to live the mission of God in the 21st century, KNOWN: The Youth Ministry Change Project seeks to research, resource, support, equip, and sustain youth ministry leaders in:

1.     Moving their communities to be known through deep, intentional, faith-nurturing relationality.

2.     Learning and absorbing the developmental relationship framework.

3.     Creating an innovative learning community of twelve congregations and organizations eager to work together to create, tend, and nurture processes. We will test a variety of prototype processes for deep, sustainable relationships and use findings to create ministry plans.

4.     Researching new forms and expressions of youth ministry focused on faith nurturing developmental relationships that reflect the changing context in America, a new ecosystem, and the needs of 21st century people. This involves developing new adaptive and innovative ministries and projects, as well as reshaping existing ministries and programs.

5.     Reimagining the role of the youth minister.



Why a learning community?




This learning community model is a way to both dive deep in learning together, honing skills, and learning new tools and ideas. It is also a way to put immediately into practice the things we explore together by testing and experimenting, then sharing what we learn with the group. Next we make new iterations, and then try again. This small community will become a network of people to support and learn with for years to come.

None of us has all the answers, but together we do. Harnessing that reality is the power of a networked learning community.


How will this be valuable to me as a leader?


As a leader, you’ll gain a network of peers speaking the same language and experiencing similar things. You won’t be alone. You will learn new ideas and skills to help you create space for faith forming relationships. You will learn about and practically implement findings from the latest research on youth faith development.

What value will this bring my faith community?

Your congregation will benefit as you systematically test effective youth ministry ideas. Your families will benefit from a greater emphasis on how to create developmental relationships. The larger church will benefit from the aggregate findings of our Networked Learning Community.

We anticipate that in the process of this experiment in reinventing youth ministry your congregation will experience:


You will move beyond events and focus on the maturing faith of young people.


You will make real strides in empowering parents to nurture their child’s faith development.


You will involve the entire congregation in ministry with young people.


You will see a shift in the job description of the youth minister.


You will discover the relational assets you already have and put in place systems and ministries to strengthen them.


You will learn new ways to facilitate change in your church based on our discoveries, which in turn change your ministry with youth and families.


You will become part of a community of curious leaders seeking to innovate and energize ministry in the 21st Century.

Who should be part of this?

We seek participants who

  • are committed to transforming the lives of young people
  • are enthusiastic about systematic change in youth ministry strategy and models
  • are called to a congregation or organization that is enthusiastic about engaging in the process of working together for systemic change, particularly in relationality.



KNOWN Summit

The KNOWN Summit is a 2 day face-to-face gathering (Summit) to be deeply immersed in the developmental relationships framework and begin to develop a ministry plan for your youth ministry. Contact Tom Schwolert if you want to host a KNOWN Summit in your area.



Contract with us for a Summit

$3000 + travel

This is for the two day summit only for up to 30 people. This can be contracted with a church, group of churches, a synod, diocese or judicatory. Contact our Partner for CYF Ministry Tom Schwolert for details.



Meet the Facilitator

Tom joined the Vibrant Faith team after years of youth and family ministry in churches. Tom brings real passion to his coaching and training as he assists leaders to help others learn to be faith builders in their everyday lives.

Tom successfully helped the four churches he served shift from being program-based to being intergenerationally and relationally focused. He has the ability to assess and move churches from current realities to using the power of family for the movement of the Spirit in people of all ages.

Tom is a real Texan, and is married with two daughters. The Schwolert family was also blessed with a son, who died from a virus at seventeen. Accompanying families who are also walking that road currently captures Tom’s ministry heart.

Tom Schwolert

Tom Schwolert

Partner for First Third Ministry

Will you take a year to change youth ministry forever?

Fill out the application. Our team will be back in touch soon if you are chosen, and with the rest of the details. We’re with you. We’re excited to connect with you. Join us.
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