This Luther Seminary Intensive course is open to pastors, lay leaders and parents as continuing education. This class is part of a John Templeton funded project, Science for Youth Ministry. This year’s children, youth and family contemporary issues class focuses on Medicine & Disability. We will explore how living in a diagnostic culture impacts ministry with children, youth and their parents.

In a diagnostic culture, diagnosing is almost a reflexive action. We often label people with our armchair diagnoses, “Oh, she’s ADHD, for sure.” “He’s got to be on the spectrum.”  In children’s and youth ministry we are as susceptible as anyone to diagnoses, often buttressed in our assumptions by the pill bottles we’re handed by parents for their students to take with them on retreats or trips.  But how should we think about this theologically?  If every church will meet young people with disabilities (cognitive, physical, emotional, learning, etc.) how should we make our ministries welcoming and open to the working of Holy Spirit?  How might labels detract from or contribute to this? These are major questions for the practice of congregational ministry, but they are also questions of faith and science.  What makes us human?  What does it mean to be human if a pill can change our personality? When should we trust in medicine and when in prayer?  In this course will hear from two of the leading practical theologians in disability theology.  They’ll lead us into new ways of understanding community, humanity and wellness, providing help in thinking about how our churches might welcome all people, particularly those with disabilities.

Children, Youth and Family Contemporary Issue Course: Medicine & Disability


Dr. Andy Root and guest lecturers John Swinton & Ben Connor

Date and Times:

June 12-15, 2017

Luther Seminary, Northwestern Hall, Rm 100

Monday 6-9 pm; Tuesday 8-4; Wednesday 8-8 pm; Thursday 8-11am

Tuition is $35. This reduced tuition is courtesy of the Science for Youth Ministry grant provided by the John Templeton Foundation

Dr. Andy Root will host the course along with our 2 guest presenters:

Professor John Swinton of the Centre for Spirituality, Health, and Disability at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. The foundation for Swinton’s research and teaching has emerged from his background in nursing, ministry and healthcare chaplaincy. He worked for more than 16 years as a mental health and learning disabilities nurse, as well as a community mental health chaplain. While working in these fields he began to gain a passion for developing modes of care that are genuinely person centered and which take seriously the significance of theology, spirituality and religion within the processes of healing and community building. Dr. Swinton is also an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland.

Benjamin T. Conner is Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. Dr. Benjamin T. Conner had been involved in youth ministry in some capacity for over twenty years before coming to Western. He has served the Church in congregations and through Young Life staff.  He currently serves on Young Life’s National Capernaum Mission Wide Committee.

Ben has earned his Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary (Virginia) and his PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary in Mission, Ecumenics and History of Religions. His teaching and research interests include practical theology, youth ministry, discipleship and Christian practices, mission studies, evangelism, disability studies and Christian history. His wife, Melissa, works in therapeutic horsemanship and together they have four children.