Dr. Ken Castor is living proof that God can open and close doors at the exact same time.
After the opportunity to start a new church plant dissolved in 2010, he felt a door to serving in a church was closing. At nearly the exact same time, another door opened out of the blue and changed everything.
That year, he moved with his family from Calgary back to the Twin Cities. His ministry plans came to a screeching halt. A church plant is never an easy endeavor, but the pieces just didn’t come together and it was time to move forward. While preparing for another job interview, Dr. Castor received a call from Dr. Rick Mann, who at the time served as the President of Crown College.
“Do you want to start training the future generation?” he recalls Dr. Mann asking at the time.
Fortunately, Dr. Castor was fully prepared for the role.
Even at the ripe old age of 16, he had stepped into an unofficial ministry position at his youth group, noting how many teenagers were asking questions about life and faith.
“I had some friends die in car accidents in high school,” says Dr. Castor. “I remember how some students and teachers would break down in the hallway after another friend had died. My peers had some big questions about God. I was faced with the reality that I really wanted to help people, and help them through tough times. I felt compelled to care for my friends and help them get to know God and understand that God is loving and wants to be present with them.”
By 18, he had secured his first summer job as a youth pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “I was a terrible youth pastor at first,” he joked. “I had no idea what I was doing.” Later he decided to seek out more training, always with a focus on next generation ministry.
Dr. Castor obtained a bachelor’s degree in History and Christian Education at Taylor University and worked with InterVarsity for two years. He went on to seminary at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, for his Master’s of Divinity. Since then, he’s served in various next-generation pastoral roles across North America, even as an interim Senior Pastor for a short time. He also holds a doctorate in Ministry from Trinity Western University in British Columbia.
At Crown, he started teaching Youth Ministry courses in the Fall semester of 2010. During this time, he thought about how the Christian life has to be firmly rooted.
“My first book Grow Down came out of diagramming what it means to grow spiritually to a group of teenagers and young adults,” says Dr. Castor. The book came out in 2014. He started writing for Group Publishing and speaking at national youth ministry events.
He’s also written the devotional book Make a Difference and edited a Bible for youth called the Jesus-Centered Bible. “That’s the biggest project, and it came from the focus of all of these other projects,” he says. “Young people who open up Scripture might know that Jesus is in the Bible or that the red letters have something to do with Jesus, but there is a growing biblical illiteracy among the younger generation.”
In 2016, the Jesus-Centered Bible won the Christian Retailers Devotional Study Bible of the Year award. It’s filled with unique “blue-letter” commentary about how the Old Testament points to Christ.
Dr. Castor then started the NEXT Conference in early 2012 for Twin Cities-area ministries. The event has since grown, taking place in six locations this year including Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio and reaching 1,600 people. The conference is through the Christian and Missionary Alliance youth branch, Alliance Youth, and challenges youth workers and volunteers to expand their horizons.
He’s also done a fair amount of ghostwriting for nationally-known voices in the Christian scene. Recently, he served as an interim youth pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie.
“It’s a very fascinating time of life for me, I’m not sure how long it will last!” he jokes.
The real privilege? Dr. Castor says it’s seeing the students he’s taught at Crown as partners in ministry. Many of them come to Crown when they are already employed at churches. He spends a lot of time praying with them, and the program continues to expand, adding classes like Contemporary Issues in Youth Culture — which comes from the felt needs of working youth pastors.
“It’s an honor to be in a network of youth pastors who are aware of our program,” he says. “I’m often on the phone having a consultancy with youth pastors from around the nation. We have a dynamic thing going. I have an inbox filled with job opportunities, and we don’t have enough students to fill all of those opportunities for those who want to make a difference.”
Dr. Castor says there’s a six-month immersive program in a church that’s part of the Youth and Family Ministry degree. Another degree has to do with at-risk youth. A new Intercultural Youth Development major helps those who want to work in communities and school systems.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed in coming to Crown these past eight years,” he says. “I’ve been allowed to do ministry alongside my work in the classroom.”
His students are glad he went through the door God opened.