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Youth ministry starts with sharing your story

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communication, Dakotas UMC

“I think when you tell a story, pray a fervent prayer or throw any sort of ministry into God’s waters, you never know where the ripples are going to travel,” says Jeff Dunn-Rankin, Vice President of Consulting with Youth Ministry Architects (YMA).

Leaders of youth ministry from the Dakotas Conference gathered at Living Waters Retreat Center at Lake Poinsett to listen and learn from Dunn-Rankin and each other at the annual Youth Workers Academy.

Jeff Dunn-Rankin has been the Director of Family Ministry at Christ United Methodist Church in Venice, Florida, where he also served as the Youth Director for 16 years. He has consulted with large and small youth and children’s ministries from California to Florida and is a frequent speaker. He is the author of two books, Before You Hire a Youth Pastor and The Indispensable Youth Pastor both co-authored with YMA President and Founder, Mark DeVries.
Attendees at the Youth Worker Academy were asked to share their cradle story. A story of the birth of their faith and how they have grown in faith. “It all starts with your story,” Jeff says. In four minutes, participants told about how God entered and has flourished in their lives. 

“The church has been a blessing in my life,” shared Pastor Kris Mutzenberger, when telling her cradle story. “It is my foundation ever since I was a child. I understand and appreciate what the church can do because of my experiences.” Mutzenberger serves Fargo First UMC.

Together attendees also discovered pointers from Dunn-Rankin how to grow their youth ministries and maintain that growth. 

Jerry Simmons, who leads youth ministry at Rapid City First and Canyon Lake UMC’s, came to continue his education as a youth ministry leader. “I want to become better at what I am called to do,” he says. 

“I came to expand what I am called to do. I have been involved in youth ministry since 1998, and I am still learning,” says Pastor Jeff Lathrop, who coordinates the event and serves Grand Forks Wesley UMC.

Pastor Karl Kroger, who serves Piedmont Grace UMC, is thankful for a time away to learn about a specific ministry. “It is so easy to get pulled in different directions, says Pastor Karl. “I am thankful for intentional time to focus on youth ministry. It is a passion of mine.” 

“I hope this has been a time to slow down, go deeper, and experience Sabbath,” says Dunn-Rankin.


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