By Jenny (Bower ’05) Pichura
Why won’t my son come out of his room? Why does it seem like my daughter has forgotten everything I ever taught her? What are the cultural forces impacting the kids in my youth group?
These are just a few of the questions that Dr. Walt Mueller hears from parents, teachers and youth workers all over the country. A sociology graduate of Geneva College, he is the founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU), a non-profit organization committed to building strong families by bridging the cultural-generational gap between parents and teens.
Walt has always had an interest in youth ministry, but during his time as a student at Geneva College, that interest grew into a bigger vision for God’s kingdom. Friends and mentors, such as former sociology professor Russell Heddendorf, played a key role in this process.
“He really helped me understand the integration of faith and life,” Walt says. “It wasn’t just a statement on the part of the school. It was real for him, and that was transformational for me.”
Walt worked in student ministry with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) after college and then went on to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He became a youth minister at a church in Philadelphia, and that’s when he began focusing on how to help parents understand the world that their teenagers are living in.
“I sat down with families and discussed the need to understand youth culture,” he says. “I was able to go back to my time at Geneva — to my anthropology and sociology classes — and help them to practically unpack their function as cross-cultural missionaries in the lives of their kids.”
Over the last 20 years, CPYU has developed an international reputation as a source of cutting-edge information, resources and analysis on today’s youth culture. In addition to maintaining his blog and other CPYU publications, Walt has written eight books, writes for periodicals, conducts youth worker training seminars, and works with teachers and parents.
“We have a distinct and clear call to help parents, youth workers and mentors understand the rapidly changing world of kids; teaching churches, schools, government and the culture at large how to interact, and to teach Christ’s followers how to be salt and light in this culture,” he says.
Visit the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding at www.CPYU.org.
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