Investing in Area Youth Pastors

Investing in Area Youth Pastors

Dr. Ken Castor, Professor of Christian Ministry Studies at Crown College, teaches and equips students called to youth ministry. However, the teaching and equipping of youth pastors goes beyond the walls of a traditional classroom. In the 20 years prior to teaching at Crown, Dr. Castor served as a youth pastor and empathizes with what other youth pastors experience in their ministries. “Youth pastors are often underappreciated and overlooked within their pastoral role. But Biblically, they are pursuing the highest calling. Youth pastors find themselves on the front lines of some of the hardest work in the nation in terms of dealing with people.”

Because of his experience and sentiment, Dr. Castor has broadened his emphasis of encouragement to area youth pastors by meeting with them once a month. Named the North Central District Youth Pastors, these 16-20 youth leaders meet each month as part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. These youth pastors gather each month to encourage one another, equip one another, pray and seek wisdom regarding situations that arise within their ministries. Troy Mapes (Hawley Alliance Church) and Nick Wackerhagen (Word of Life Church, Coon Rapids), both Crown College alumni of the youth ministry program, have co-led the group which has been meeting for several years. The need arose so youth pastors could form a community within the district and share openly and honestly with one another about their own experiences in ministry. The meeting has become a supportive network in which the members interact with one another and organize cohesive events such as a common summer mission experience for their students and an annual winter retreat at Big Sandy Camp.

Troy drives from Hawley, Minnesota, a 3-1/2-hour trip one way each month to attend this two-hour meeting. “I personally feel it is a like a time found in the book of Acts where we build one another up and encourage one another in our giftings. We aren’t fancy – just a Christ-centered Acts 1:8 family.”  Will Kelly, another Crown alumni and associate pastor of youth at Parkside Church in Waconia, testifies to the benefit of this meeting. “This is a meeting that I try to attend at all costs because of the connections, the fellowship, the accountability, and the prayer that takes place. It’s not often someone gets the opportunity to connect with peers monthly.”

Six meetings per year, the group meets at the CMA District Office located on the Crown College campus grounds. When this occurs, Dr. Castor seeks to continue the mentorship of these leaders by providing them lunch and resources from Crown College to help them in their ministries. “Crown College wants to encourage, to champion, what these youth pastors are doing. Many students attend Crown from these churches and many Crown students are going out to these churches to participate and serve in their ministries. Many of my students are serving their five-month internships in these churches. My desire is to keep investing in these leaders as they begin their careers.”

During one of these meetings, Dr. Castor invited one of his classes to sit in on a meeting of the area youth pastors. The students heard encouraging stories of students following the Lord and being baptized. But they also witnessed the testimony of a youth pastor whose student recently committed suicide and his experiences of hospital visits and planning a funeral. Dr. Castor reflected, “In this particular class, we were learning about how to deal with crisis scenarios within ministry. The students learned so much more by living it out through the eyes of this particular youth pastor than they ever could within the classroom.”

Today’s youth ministers encounter complicated family situations, technology/social media, and school activities, all vying for the attention and hearts of their students. But, as Will Kelly states, “I get to see a side of the students not many do. I get to see a side of their faith that is unfiltered and real in a way that we lose as we get older.”

Nearly 65 students are currently enrolled in the two youth ministry degrees at Crown College. The Youth and Family Ministry degree’s coursework includes the youth pastor training track. The Youth Social Ministry degree involves more at-risk youth, social work types of careers. Dr. Ken Castor assures this ministry program at Crown is centered on Jesus, not on the latest gimmicks and tricks to entertain students. “Our goal is to equip our Crown College youth ministry students to help root their potential youth ministry students into Jesus.”