Youth ministry alive and well in community

Youth ministers work to provide safe havens for young people

Youth ministry remains a focal point at area churches, with leaders committed to providing spiritual guidance to the younger generation. 

The Staples World recently met with a few full-time area youth ministers, learning what drew them to this line of work and what a typical week might look like for their youth group. 

Helping guide students to embrace a life of faith is a priority no matter the denomination. The various leaders also shared a desire to provide a safe haven for young people...a place where they can find a listening ear and support from both adults and their peers. 

Having to work around the busy schedules of teenagers today was a concern voiced by at least two of the youth ministers. In years past, Wednesday evenings were set aside as ‘church time’ and schools did their best to schedule events on other days of the week. That has changed in recent years, which has presented a challenge for youth leaders to find a time that works for most students to attend youth group. 

However, these same leaders have also been encouraged by the support they’ve received from both the Staples-Motley School District and the Staples Motley Ministerial Association. Recently, these two organizations sponsored a ‘Hunger No More’ activity day which was attended by over 80 youth. Other activity days are in the works.

Although the leaders we spoke with are paid staff members, they rely on dedicated volunteers to help facilitate their youth programs. A number of other area churches have thriving youth programs that are led solely by volunteers. The Staples World plans to speak with them in the near future and include their stories in an upcoming edition.

In the meantime, learn about the work of these four youth ministers:

Monica Simmons

Monica Simmons is the  Youth and Young Adult Coordinator at the parishes of St. Michael’s in Motley  and Sacred Heart in Staples. It’s a position she’s held for the past two-and-a-half years.

She works with students in grades 6-12, with Wednesday nights from 7-8:30 p.m. designated as youth night. “Students from both parishes are a part of this,” Simmons said.

There are three aspects of youth ministry, Monica shared. These include Faith Formation (a life-long process), Community Building (relationships, service projects), and Prayer and Worship. 

Although the dogma of the church remains the same over time, Simmons said that youth ministry changes with the culture.

“We need to communicate with kids in a way that their generation works,” Monica said. “Technology is a big part of their lives. We need to connect with them in this way.”

For Monica, youth ministry is a callin and one that she first heard when she was a teenager.

Monica attended St. Anne’s Parish in Crookston when she was growing up  and at 16 she attended a Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) weekend. “That’s where I met God,” she shared.

The TEC weekend had a profound effect on her and Monica knew from that point on that she wanted to work in youth ministry.

She went on to earn a music degree at Moorhead State University, and although music has remained an important part of her life, her focus has remained in youth ministry. “I have 37 years of experience in this work,” Monica said, going on to mention her role as a youth  leader at retreats, camps and church.

There is room for fun and creativity in youth work, which Monica loves. Playing games is important for developing relationships; and as kids bond  with each other and church leaders, hopefully they learn that youth group is a safe place to be...and that there are people there who love and support them. “We have a wonderful volunteer team who help out,” Monica said.

In the midst of laughter, there are often real needs and hurts that are voiced during a Wednesday night youth gathering. Bullying, mental illness, suicide and car accidents are just a few of the issues that have been brought up. Monica is glad that the church provides a place for young people to discuss these things, as well as to pray about them. “Some of the tragedies have led to God-moments, teachable moments,” Simmons said.

Life can be very busy, especially for students, but Simmons encourages kids to become involved at a church of their choice. She went on to note a study by the Barna Group which found that kids of faith have less alcohol and drug abuse and less suicidal tendencies.

Richard Broberg

Richard Broberg has been in ministry at Motley Free Methodist Church for the past several years, first as a volunteer and then as a staff member. He was hired on part-time in 2014 and full-time in 2016. Since last fall, he has been working with the youth of the church, along with church member Craig Weigel.

“I felt called (to ministry) when I was 12 years old,” Richard shared. He recalled going to Lake Geneva Bible Camp at that age and praying at the altar where he first heard the call. It was something he would put on the back burner for quite a while. 

He grew up in Frazee and attended the Assembly of God Church in Detroit Lakes. After graduating from Frazee High School, Richard attended North Central Bible College in Minneapolis with the intent of going into full-time ministry. However, before earning his degree, he quit school to become a plumber, which he did for 15 years. “I owned Caliber Plumbing,” Richard said.

He enjoyed his work, but the call to ministry was always there.

Upon moving to the Motley area, Richard attended Casino Assembly of God Church in Pillager, which was pastored by his dad, the late Michael Broberg. It was a position Pastor Broberg held until brain cancer claimed his life in 2005.

During the Casino years, Richard met his future wife, Kathy (Buscho), whose parents attended the rural church. He also had the opportunity to work as a youth leader at Casino.

As time went on, Richard and Kathy were married, had two daughters (Molly and Emma), and began attending the Motley Free Methodist Church. Richard volunteered as a Sunday School teacher and Awana leader, which he enjoyed very much.

One night, while having dinner with his wife at a restaurant, Richard recalled Kathy asking him if he felt he was supposed to be in ministry. “That was a real turning point,” he said.

It wasn’t long before he was hired to be on staff and he hopes to be ordained with the Free Methodist Church this coming June. “We have a real solid group of kids at this church,” Richard said, noting that the youth group meets on Wednesday nights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The first part of the evening is game time followed by snacks and a time of worship. “We spend close to an hour on Bible study and discussion,” Richard said.

Several of their youth group members belong to FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes/Academics/Arts), which meets at the Staples-Motley High School on Fridays at 7:13 a.m. They also participate  in activity days which are sponsored by the Staples-Motley School District and the Staples Motley Ministerial Association.

Mark Shea

Mark Shea has been serving as youth minister at the Staples Alliance Church since September 2016. Prior to that, he worked at a church plant in Buffalo and as a recovery coach at Teen Challenge.

A native of Newton, Iowa, Mark went on to receive a degree in youth ministry at Crown College in St. Bonifacius. 

He had played several sports in high school and intended to pursue athletics in college. “My plan was to go to the University of Iowa to play football,” Mark shared.

That goal changed, however, after he participated in a mission trip prior to his junior year in high school. That’s when God first broke his heart and challenged him to make a commitment to follow Him.  The next summer he attended a national youth conference that was “life changing,” Mark said. “I knew there was more to life than football and sports.” From that point on, he wanted to help other kids get to know Jesus.

He’s excited to be working at Staples Alliance, Mark said. The youth group (grades 7-12) meets at the church on Sunday nights from 6-8 p.m. “Every week is different,” he said, although there are a few constants. There is always a large group activity, such as a video, followed by a lesson and discussion. “Recently, our focus has been on praying,” Mark said.

This winter, he’ll help lead the young people at a winter retreat at Big Sandy Camp in McGregor. Ironically, it’s a camp he went to  when he was a kid and he’s excited to now attend as a leader. A missions trip to Chicago is also in the planning stages.

Because young people are so busy with school events, Mark tries to meet up with them outside of church on occasion. Sports has been a good connecting point, as has been the FCC group at school and the  occasional ‘Activity Day’ sponsored by the Staples-Motley School District and the Staples Motley Ministerial Association. “We’ve had some good conversations,” Mark said of times spent with the young people. “It’s great to hear what God is doing in their lives.”

Emelia Enquist

Emelia Enquist is the Director of Youth, Families and Christian Education at Faith Lutheran Church in Staples. She started her job   there this past December.

A native of Strandburg, South Dakota (named after her great-great grandfather), Emelia was baptized and confirmed at Tabor Lutheran Church, of which her great-great grandfather was a founding board member.

Emelia attended a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran high school where she learned all about Christian theology. She recalled taking a test that indicated that “this student has gifts that could be used in public ministry.”

Although she enjoyed her theology classes, Emelia was also very interested in theater, music and communications. She went on to study advertising and public relations at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., with a minor in music.

Two key events occurred during her college years that would have a major impact on her life, Emelia said.

The first was spending a semester in Sweden, where Lutheran Christianity is the largest religion of the country. It was a time that confirmed her interest in the church. 

Secondly, she had a public relations internship with the Springfield Regional Opera and found she had a passion for marketing. Could she combine the two?

After graduating from college in 2014, Emelia worked in the areas of brand management and corporate marketing. She recalled taking the train out to Portland, Ore., to work as an intern at a company called North. “I went through Staples at 2 a.m.,” Emelia said, adding that she remembers thinking, “Wouldn’t it be neat to live and work in a small Midwestern town like that someday?”

Little did she know.

After six months in Portland, Emelia worked briefly in South Dakota, then held marketing jobs in Arkansas and Minneapolis.

She realized that she wasn’t completely happy in that line of work, Emelia shared. About that time she came across an advertisement for the job she currently holds at Faith Lutheran Church. Something in her said that she needed to reach out and learn more about this.

After a series of interviews (one of which included students, which impressed her), Emelia learned she had been selected for the job. Her first day was Dec. 1, 2016.

She’s still learning the ropes, Emelia said, but is excited about the opportunities for youth that are offered at Faith Lutheran. The Bridges program is for students in grades 9-12 and Crossroads is for students in grades 6-8.

Crossroads caters to students going through Confirmation and the Bridges curriculum includes devotions and a variety of activities, often centered on upcoming missions trips. 

Although she has a lot of interaction with the young people, Emelia said a lot of her work is behind the scenes in program development and management. “We have a lot of great Sunday School and Confirmation teachers here,” she said. 

Emelia is looking forward to getting to know the youth involved at Faith Lutheran and to helping them discover the same passion for the church she did as a student in South Dakota.

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