At 23, Bethany Brown recently moved to Texas to follow God's calling into youth ministry as the Children's and Youth Director at the First United Methodist Church of Dayton. She recently learned about an opportunity to join an online cohort of youth directors from across the south district. Although her group has only met in one Google hangout, facilitated by Eddie Erwin, Conference Director of Youth/Young Adult Ministry, she already has a sense of belonging and support.
Bethany says, “Our newly formed cohort has given me a place to relate to other youth directors and discuss the opportunities and struggles we face.” She looks forward to learning from older, more experienced youth workers and to brainstorming sessions about youth group events and activities. “The cohort has already eased that nervous feeling of swimming solo in the waters of youth ministry,” she adds.
The original pilot program for the youth leader cohorts began in the east district in 2016. Jeff Campbell, who leads a youth group of 40-50 students at FUMC Nacogdoches, has enjoyed the face-to-face gatherings his group has had to date. Youth leaders from Lakewood UMC, Lufkin FUMC, have also been in the pilot group. Churches rotate hosting the gathering to keep the drive time manageable for travelers.
Jeff finds it encouraging, fun and informative to be with others sharing in a small venue how they are balancing life and ministry. “Because of the intimacy of the cohort,” Jeff says, “we really get to know each other, build trust and become more aware of what's going on in the district and conference in regards to youth ministry.” Another perk: the group is forging a bond that results in better coordination for district and conference retreats and camps.
“My favorite part is just listening to what is going on in the lives of the other directors and praying together,” Jeff says. “I would say to other district youth directors that it is well worth starting a cohort with your peers in youth ministry.”
Bethany is eager to learn new ways to be an example of faith for her “small youth group with a big heart.” Adds Bethany, “I believe having a consist adult presence in kids' lives is one of the most important things you can do for them.”