Christian Studies Dean Outlines Long-Range Plans for College

By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Tim Winzeler 

Youth ministry is rapidly shedding its second-class status, and GCU stands ready to prepare a new breed of leaders in the field. 

That was the message from Dr. Steve Gerali, dean of the recently formed (and soon to be renamed) College of Christian Studies, in remarks made Tuesday night at Ethington Theatre before current and prospective students, faculty and alumni. 

Describing himself as a “dyed-in-the-wool” youth pastor, Gerali said respect has been slow in coming for youth ministry, which traditionally has been seen in church circles as “practice” for preachers-in-training. 

Gerali, who designed the youth-ministry degree program at Azusa Pacific University in southern California and has a wealth of expertise in the field, cited his own career in addressing a long-held perception. 

“People would say to me, ‘When will you get a real pastor job?’” he said. “And I would say, ‘This is one.’ You can’t take the youth pastor out of me.” 

In the fall, Gerali said, the college will roll out a Christian studies major with biblical and youth-ministry emphases. A full bachelor of arts degree could be in place by next spring, he said, and separate emphases on worship arts, children’s ministry, urban ministry and sports ministry will be developed. Eventually, GCU will offer an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) on its traditional and online campuses. 

“You name it, we’re going to do it and offer it,” Gerali promised. 

The impetus for much of this is the changing scope of youth ministry. Two-thirds of the world’s population is younger than 25, Gerali said, creating a new frontier. Secular institutions and organizations are opening their doors to professional youth workers, and churches are seeking youth pastors — particularly women — in record numbers. 

Gerali said effective youth ministry has workers who are constant students of the Bible, the culture and adolescence, which he defined as the age range of 11 to 23 (middle school, high school and college). 

“Change occurs more dramatically during adolescence than at any other time in the lifespan other than age 0 to 2,” Gerali said.

The dean said he will teach a course next school year and also oversee mentor groups, as part of a hands-on approach. 

“We’re the college that has to stay the most contextual,” he said.

Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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