For most of us, our involvement in a local youth group came to an end when we started college. But for others in our community, a commitment to a local youth ministry is an integral part of their college experience. Mason Sebian ’19, Olivia Flint ’20, and Andrew Bub ’19 are among those who sacrifice their time and energy to pour into the lives of teens in local youth ministries.
Sebian is in his second year of working with the youth at Houghton Wesleyan. As an intern, his responsibilities include involvement in morning Sunday School, Sunday night youth group, and weekly visits to Fillmore Central School. Through this experience, Sebian has learned the importance of being aware to the needs around him. “I think the biggest area of growth for me has been needing to be aware, and needing to be bold in that awareness,” he said. “It’s not something you can just turn off. It’s a practice that needs to happen all the time. I might not ever know the effect I have on the students I’m interacting with, so I’m just free to love them.”
Since last September, Bub has been involved at Trinity Church of Nunda, where he attends Sunday morning worship and Sunday night discipleship group. His experience has shaped his view of God as our Provider. “It has been really powerful for me to see that God cares about what is going on in our lives,” he said. “God is not only concerned with the cosmic and eternal, but is concerned with the little and the concrete in these teenagers’ lives. From the time I was fairly young, I always thought my problems were way too small for God to care about. I figured that God must be too busy worrying about terrorism, world hunger, poverty, and war to care about my stupid ‘middle schooler’ problems. This experience has definitely shown me that God cares about our everyday lives, regardless of how insignificant we might think they are at times.”
For Flint, her role as a youth leader at Lifeway Youth Center in Belfast is “to show up and show love,” and “to establish supportive relationships with the youth and demonstrate how the Gospel can be daily applied to their lives.”
Sebian, Bub, and Flint all believe in the “vast importance” of ministering to youth. “These youth need people who will love them, who will listen to them, and who will care for them,” Bub said. “Many of these teens do not get that anywhere else, and by taking the time to love these teens and give them a listening ear I can participate in bringing the Kingdom of God here on earth.”
Working in local youth ministries is a privilege, but it can also be challenging. “In working with these youth, God has tested tremendously my trust in Him,” Flint said. “By far, the biggest challenge is leaving youth group discouraged because the immense longing for these kids to experience the truth of the Gospel often transforms care into crippling concern.”
Sebian understands the deep love and concern that is felt towards the youth he works with. “I think the most challenging thing about serving in youth ministry would be not seeing some of the fruit of the work that you’re doing,” he said. “Until youth are in a position where they are called to something, or are passionate about something and act on it, it would be hard for them to know the care that goes behind every action. Not trying to be their best friend is hard for me because I want to be involved in their lives.”
Sacrificing their time and energy for the local youth is seen as well worth the effort for Sebian, Bub, and Flint. Why? “Because they’re important,” Sebian said. “That’s what makes it worth it. When you have someone who is willing to walk alongside of you and tell you they believe in you, that changes people’s lives. These students need to know that there are people who care so deeply about them. Being able to reflect what Jesus’ relationship with all of us is what makes the late nights, the bad weather, the money on gas, and the late nights studying worth it.”