I'm a recent grad from the JBU Youth Ministries program. While enrolled in the program in the early 2000’s I felt called to full-time youth ministry at a local church in Northern Ireland. I served there for several years, but knew I needed to come back and finish my degree. After graduating in 2008 I took a job at a Lutheran church in Ft. Collins serving as the head of their Student Ministries. Things were going well and my wife Stacie and I thought that we would be there for years, but after a trip back to her hometown in Kenosha, Wisconsin we both felt God leading us to plant a church there. So after about a year of transition and preparation, in the Fall of 2014, we planted DayBreak church in her home town. On launch day we had over 200 folks join us for our start and are now in the process of connecting all of these new people into the family of DayBreak church. Having seen what God has done in the past, we know this is going to be a crazy adventure, but we are so looking forward to sharing the Story of God with the many people who need to belong God’s Story.
Standing where I am standing now, I see that my JBU Youth Ministries degree has been priceless in this process. From all of the bible classes teaching me how to handle God's Word as a living, breathing body that must be shared. To my ministry classes that taught me how to look below the surface of people’s lives to see where God’s Church could meet them most profoundly. I feel very well equipped to not only lead a church, but to prepare those who will be a part of our ministry to serve God and others through their unique gifts. As we enter into this new chapter of pastoring a people in Kenosha, I see that my Youth Ministries classes were so practical and personal that they helped me find my unique ways of serving God. This was also balanced with a deep understanding of how my service is just one part of what God is doing through all of us who just do the simple things He asks us to do. Outside of the incredible school, I think JBU Youth Ministry program is second to none!
I came to Memphis after Graduation because there are some key relationships here that I wanted to develop, one of which is with Soup Campbell. He has a ministry with inner-city youth to teach them about character, discipline, and Jesus through the game of basketball. He is discipling me as I work with him and his ministry, which is outstanding. In addition to working with this inner city ministry, Lord willing, I'm also going to go on a mission trip to Burkina Faso, Africa in the spring. Along with connecting to inner-city youth through sports, I'm also learning that they need to be guided in finding what they can do and developing the skills to do it well. So I’ve taken a job working for Chick-fil-A as a manager. My days are filled with teaching and interacting with youth through basketball and then helping our youth workers serve our guests according to the mission of the organization.
The Youth Ministries degree prepared me well for doing ministry in this unique setting because it taught me how to serve youth where they are really at. I learned in my time at JBU that when we come into a culture we have to learn to listen to them first. When we have also taken the time to know God through the Word, we can help to connect them to the One who can really address their needs. For example, it was just moments ago that I shared the gospel with someone in my store. I'm doing ministry for Him and with Him, and Christian Ministry is something that God wants to do in whichever community that we find ourselves.
Looking back, I believe that the Youth Ministry degree was the best degree I could have received for what I wanted to do with my life - because I wanted to do ministry for a living. And I didn’t just learn a lot inside the classroom, I was discipled as I got to go out and practice. So if you're considering ministry as foundational to your future career, the Youth Ministries degree at John Brown University should be strongly considered.
Sung Uk Yoon
I am a recent graduate from John Brown University with a degree in Youth Ministries. Right after graduation, I took a job at a Christian residential facility in southern Missouri. Shelterwood is a non-profit Christian residential facility which helps teens that are struggling with drug dependencies, self-harm, anxiety, depression, and other issues. As part of the Direct Care Staff, we are known as Big Brothers/Sisters (Bigs) and our job is to help the residents, known as Little Brothers/Sisters (Littles), to address their issues head on and to have the courage and support to deal with them. To do this we live with the residents in shifts to help continually guide and encourage them through their daily struggles. This can be a very hard journey at times, but seeing the residents grow and experience God transformation their lives gives us strength to keep going.
When I first chose the Youth Ministry degree it was because it sounded easy. I quickly realized it is one of the most challenging programs from JBU. That’s because it not only pushes you to be a deep thinker, but it also pushes you to put what you learn into practice in ways that sometimes makes your heart hurt more than your head does. This was challenging, and I thought about leaving the major, but I’m so glad I didn’t. That’s because it made me reshape and rediscover how I could represent Christ to all people. It also helped me to develop the skills I needed to present how God's Kingdom is open for all of us- no matter how broken we may be. Most schools will probably say that they would do the same thing. But now working with graduates from other places, I see that the JBU Youth Ministry goes far beyond when they provide you with a community of like-minded people guided by committed professors, that are focused on learning together how to live out our faith. And it is this depth of integrated training that prepared me to not only work at a residential facility like Shelterwood, but to excel in my support of these youth.
I work stateside with the Youth For Christ Military organization, Club Beyond, in Fort Lee, VA. In this ministry I work with the youth of military families, to be able to present the gospel message to them and support their families through our chapel. Basically, Club Beyond is an outreach focused version of a normal youth group where we meet military teens at many places on the installation and invite themy to come be a part. To do this we put on club, service projects, camp, semester retreats, bible studies, etc. in order to accomplish this.
Not only does my degree validate my work, it has prepared me to apply all that I have learned in youth culture, youth ministry organization and planning, and discipleship and evangelism. I also have a network of youth ministers that went through the program with me that I stay in contact with them for prayer, ideas, etc. Having an organized resume and a philosophy of ministry also allowed me to look more professional and be taken seriously in my vocational objectives. My internship gave me first-hand experience on topics such as how plan a trip or event from beginning to end and how to create lessons and messages that work within the context of the scriptures.
I would recommend, that if you feel God leading you into youth ministry, that you need to seriously consider being a part of this program. Dr. Lanker does a great job of using incarnational (relational) ministry as he teaches and helps to direct and guide you through the program. The program also regularly challenges you to grow in your faith and to be open to other forms of ministry than what you are not used to. From all this I have learned that youth ministry is about helping teens to be introduced to Christ, grow in their faith, and be safe and have fun in the process.