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Message From Randy

Over 90% of the world’s formally trained youth leaders are in the USA, ministering to only 3% of the world’s youth. YMI is dedicated to changing this statistic. We want to be a part of a world wide movement committed to reaching the world’s youth for Christ by training youth leaders globally. With your help we can empower and equip churches across the world with the leaders they need.

History Principles We Believe

Youth Ministry International was founded to respond to a pressing need. Youth Ministry
International was never a creation, design scheme, or strategy on the part of any human being. It was God’s response to a need of people.


In the summer of 1988, Richard Konnerup and Jon Konnerup, father and son and missionaries to Kenya, East Africa, made a phone call to Lynchburg, Virginia to talk to David Adams, Senior Youth Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Director of the Center for Youth Ministries at Liberty University. Every two years the missionaries of the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Kenya, Africa sponsored an African national conference of missionaries and national pastors to come together to study a theme of common interest to their ministries. A different missionary would be selected to take responsibility for the conference. These responsibilities include selecting the location, the theme, and inviting the speakers for the conference. In 1988 Richard Konnerup sponsored the conference.

When it came time to select a theme for the African National Conference of 1988, Jon Konnerup suggested to his dad that perhaps youth ministries should be the theme. Youth ministry was and is a need in Africa, since 75% of the population is under the age of nineteen. The local churches of the Baptist Bible Fellowship were burdened with the need for reaching their young people.

The practice of the Conference was to invite a specialist in the field of interest from the United States, and if possible, a speaker from the Third World who was also a specialist on the selected theme. Richard Konnerup called David Adams and asked him to be the featured speaker for the conference in October 1988 and asked if he knew of a Third World specialist in youth ministry who might come. Dave immediately suggested Jum Lamugbus, youth pastor of the Baptist Bible Church of Cebu City in the Philippine Islands. Jum had been in youth ministry for some fifteen years and was doing an incredible job. His youth ministry consisted of over 500 people in one of the largest churches in the Philippine Islands.

The theme of the speakers was set. In August of 1988, David Adams approached Randy Smith, then Senior High Pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church and eventual Founder of Youth Ministry International, to come and assist at the conference. Randy agreed to go and the team made reservations to fly to Nairobi, Kenya in mid-October, 1988.

Since a youth conference in the Third World had never been attempted by the three youth ministers, a question of strategy arose. All three men agreed that the conference should present Biblical principles and philosophy of youth ministry, which would be cross-cultural. It would not highlight methodology or programming which had worked in the U.S. or the Philippines, but only use those as illustrations of implementing the cross-cultural youth philosophy. With that as the only strategy, the men began the journey, which would ultimately lead to the formation of an international youth ministry.

What happened after that was nothing short of a miracle. The national pastors wept as they realized that their own young people were being neglected and their potential was not being realized. Tears of joy followed as they began to understand the potential of developing specific strategic youth ministry to the young people of their areas of ministry. Their questions, energy, and interest were incredible. The last evening of the national pastors conference was indeed an act of God as twenty-nine national volunteers, volunteer associates, and ministers in the churches fell to their knees and surrendered to do youth ministry in their churches.

One of the young men who surrendered to this call was Charles Juma. Charles was leading the music and teaching Sunday school in the church sponsoring the conference, the Bible Baptist Church of Ruiu, Kenya. Charles said, “If you will train me, if you will help me, I will be the youth pastor of our church. I will do it as a volunteer or full-time, if the Lord provides.”

The second part of the conference was to the missionaries, many of whom, as indicated before, doubted or questioned the validity of this Conference in Kenya. But as the days progressed many missionaries also realized their inadequacy in the area of youth ministry and embraced the need to develop strategic youth ministry in their local churches and to train workers in youth ministry.

At the time of the conference Randy Smith had four interns working for him, one of whom was Jon Barr. Jon was finishing up his two-year internship and asked Randy to look for possibilities for him to return to Africa. He had been there on a short-term campaign to Kenya and Uganda one year prior in 1987. His intentions were not what Randy Smith came back and proposed to him.

Upon his return to the States, Randy shared with Jon what had happened. He asked him to prayerfully consider returning to Kenya to spend a year training Charles Juma, the national youth volunteer at the church in Ruiu, to be youth pastor for the church. About a month later in November of 1988, Jon met with Randy and agreed to prepare for a one year service in Kenya, beginning in June, 1989 to August of 1990.


Jon arrived on the field in 1989. He met Charles Juma at the airport and immediately went to the church where Charles was teaching a youth Sunday School class of six young people. After only one year of training and investment, when Jon left Nairobi in June of 1990, the young people’s department had grown to over 100 students. More than fifty were trained to do evangelism in their local high schools. They had been divided into Sunday School classes and youth and volunteer leaders had been recruited and trained. Jon also trained four other youth workers in the area around Nairobi and assisted them in their youth ministry. He left Charles Juma with the mission to train others around him. In the fall of 1989, Randy Smith returned to Kenya to see how Jon was doing. He conducted two additional youth conferences, one in the city of Eldert and one in the city of Nakuru. There he met with over sixty prospective youth workers and national pastors. From those two conferences other young men surrendered for youth ministry to work with the young people of their national churches.

As a result of this success, Randy Smith began to dream of an international youth ministry. He asked Jon Barr if he would consider going full-time as the Director of Field Operations for Youth Ministry International to help recruit, train, and place youth missionaries around the world. After a couple of months of prayer, Jon Barr agreed to raise his support to become the first full-time Trainer of Youth Ministry International.


In the spring of 1991, Youth Ministry International was formed. John Palm was the first YMI missionary to return under the new organization. He went to Nakuru, Kenya and finished up his one-year program on December 15, 1993. During the summer of 1993, Randy and Jon returned with fifty students to Nakuru where they held evangelistic meetings in support of both Charles Juma in Nairobi, and Muitu, who was the youth pastor trained under John Palm’s ministry. They built a youth center for the Bible Baptist Church of Nakuru. When John Palm departed, he left behind a trained youth pastor, a volunteer staff, and a youth ministry that went from about 8-10 young people to over 100 in attendance.

Since December 1992, YMI has impacted over 7,000 AIC churches in East Africa, as well as establishing “Mission: East Africa” which includes the projected building of the YMI East African Youth Ministry Training Center. We have placed trainers in Kenya, England, Ukraine and China. We have also taken hundreds of American students overseas to minister the Gospel in England, Ukraine, East Africa, China, Mexico and Venezuela. Please join us as we continue to minister on foreign mission fields where we can make a long-term commitment to the training of nationals in order to further the work of global evangelism and discipleship.

2000 Forward

In June of 2000, YMI moved its offices to Louisville, Kentucky where it is located today. YMI has in its short history, by the grace of God, been able to train more then 10,000 volunteer youth workers and more than 2400 local church youth directors. We have conducted youth ministry training directly for more than 3,000 local churches world wide. In 2003, YMI added a formal training component to its already strategic informal training program. We have partnered with strategic seminaries and Bible colleges to offer the first fully accredited youth major degree programs outside the western world. We call them Centers for Youth Ministry (CYM). These 36 -42 credit hour degree programs at both the undergraduate and masters degree levels are unique in that they not only offer quality academic training, the programs also require more than 400 clock hours of experiential learning in an approved site local church, under the strict supervision of a qualified youth worker. Upon completion of this formal training, YMI offers a unique youth ministry “Certification” that definitely raises the bar of excellence for trained youth workers. We currently have fifteen centers operating in nine countries, with more centers being added. Although the courses for these degree programs are currently being taught by qualified credentialed YMI trainers, the goal is for all of these centers is to turn them over totally to national leadership direction as soon as possible.