Remembering the Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP)...
The calendar read 1956 when representatives from the Board for Young People's Work of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Lutheran Laymen's League, and the International Walther League met in the office of the president of Valparaiso University to discuss initiating a new program in youth ministry. The growth of the LCMS, and the burgeoning number of young people in its congregations, had surfaced the need to train leaders-men and women who could assist congregations in the joyful task of shepherding their younger members. These professionals would then also take an active part in various local, district, and national youth events, activities, and training efforts.
Attending that first meeting was a young man from an unlikely vocation-a football coach-who would serve as the first of four directors of the Youth Leadership Training Program. A visionary who was non-traditional in thought and action, Coach Walt Reiner recruited a group of students willing to attempt an academic regimen that included a theology major, enrichment in group dynamics, counseling, and hands-on field experiences with youth meetings of all types and sizes. Willi Beilfuss, Richard Lee, and Kenneth Korby-each gifted and wise-also served as directors, overseeing the development of new ways to accomplish the task, until historical forces brought the program to a close in 1975.
During its years on campus, YLTP graduated some 140 individuals, a handful of whom continue to serve in congregational ministry as pastors, DCEs, youth workers and family life ministers. Others have made their contribution to the church as college professors and staff, denominational executives, social agency, administrators, camp directors, and a wide variety of other vocations.A Lutheran Look