Sermon Series Competition – Joy and Adolescent Faith and Flourishing

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Competition Overview


Submission deadline:  January 31, 2018

Winners announced:  April 15, 2018

Awards:  1 First Prize: $2,000; 3 runners up: $500 each


Sermon Series Topics


The Yale Center for Faith & Culture is hosting a sermon series competition on the topic of Joy and Adolescent Faith and Flourishing. This competition seeks submissions that address questions concerning joy and flourishing (the “good life”) for adolescents.

We hypothesize that the good life has three basic dimensions: agential (what you do), circumstantial (how the world is for you), and affective (how you feel). Given this formal account, our hypothesis is that, on the Christian description, joy is the crown of the flourishing (“good life”), integrating all three basic dimensions. Joy is a positive affective response to an objective external good construed rightly and about which one is rightly concerned. Therefore, joy cannot be described without reference to the flourishing life (“good life”). Likewise, the flourishing life (“good life”) cannot be described without reference to joy. Each is integral to the other.

Furthermore, we know that adolescents face many obstacles to joy and counterfeits of joy—“joy inhibitors”—which, if left unaddressed will have a material detrimental effect on their capacity to experience joy as adults. These obstacles have a variety of sources: class, education, economic status, biology, behavior, racism, and more. On the other hand, we hypothesize that there are practices, attitudes, habits, and virtues that, individually and communally, inspire and sustain joyful, flourishing lives, and these are most beneficial if developed in adolescence. Our hypothesis is that there are spiritual resources found in the theology of joy and the good life that can, when combined with insights drawn from the social sciences and other fields, ameliorate if not eliminate these joy inhibitors.

Topic: Big Questions on Joy and Adolescent Flourishing

For the purpose of this sermon series competition, we ask that participants submit sermons that engage with one or more of the following questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. What is the relationship between joy and human flourishing?  How does attention to joy shape one's vision of a flourishing life?  How does attention to an integrated flourishing life shape one's account of joy?
  3. How can recovery of joy as a central theological category of human experience: (a) return the quest for human flourishing to a central position in Christian theology? (b) return the quest for human flourishing to a central position in individual and social life? (c) help lay the foundations for adolescent flourishing?
  4. What practices, attitudes, habits, and virtues help to inspire and sustain joy and flourishing for adolescents?
  5. What are the biggest obstacles to and counterfeits of joy that adolescents face?  How can we offer adolescents the spiritual communities, experiences, and resources that sustain resilience in confronting these obstacles or enable them to live with a measure of joy despite them?



The competition is open to pastors and seminarians. Winning authors must consent to allow their names and excerpts of their work to be featured on the project website.

Your series can be preached with other pastors across the US starting April 23, 2017, the first Sunday after Easter. Check out the movement here, 50 States of Joy: 



Prizes and Benefits

First Prize: $2,000

Runners Up (3): $500

In addition to the monetary prize, awardees will also be invited tothe project pivot conference in the summer of 2018 and recognized there.

Selection Process

Submissions will be reviewed by YCFC scholars and the JAFF Advisory Board.

Sermons will be evaluated based on the following guidelines:

  1. Content: Did the series integrate substantial theological content? Did the embodied presentation (if video/audio submission) align with the content and help to teach congregants what was intended? Were the questions above related to joy and adolescent flourishing integrated into the message(s)? Do the sermons contribute substantially to reviving discussion in the academy and Church of joy and flourishing in adolescence?
  2. Persuasiveness: Is the series persuasive? 
  3. Inspirational: Does the series inspire? 
  4. Equipping: Does the series equip the people of God to respond to the message(s)?
  5. Calling: Were the people of God called to action?
  6. Action: Does the series provide concrete ways to respond to the messages(s)?

Submission Instructions

All sermons must be submitted in English and all payments will be made in US dollars. Applicants should submit the following by January 31, 2018:

  1. The best sermon from the sermon series of 4-6 sermons via manuscript and if available, include the audio/video of you preaching this sermon. 
  2. Manuscripts or videos of the other 3-5 sermons in the series and a paragraph about the difference the sermon series made in your congregation and community. 
  3. Promotional materials used to communicate about the series to your congregation and community (if available)
  4. A separate cover sheet of no more than one page that includes the following:
  • name(s) of sermon author(s)
  • title of the sermon series
  • email address
  • church, denomination, or institutional affiliation
  • demographics of the congregation where the sermon series was preached: rural/urban/suburban context, number   of congregants, ethnicities and ages of congregants. This will help us to judge the content and style of the sermon series. We are interested in preachers that attend to their context. 
  • a series overview of no more than 250 words, describing content of and rationale for the series in the local context

Sermons and accompanying cover sheet should be submitted by email attachment as a single PDF (in the order listed above) to:

The following words should appear in the subject line: "Joy and Adolescent Faith and Flourishing Sermon Competition"

The only acceptable file format is PDF. An acknowledgment email will be sent within seven days of receiving your full proposal. All questions about the application process should be sent to:


JTF Logo The Theology of Joy & the Good Life project is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation with additional support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.