When you visit Alex Becker’s office, don’t be surprised if you find a deer head on the wall. The avid hunter and outdoorsman is St. John’s new youth director. He and his family will be moving to Salisbury — deer head in tow — in January.
Alex and his wife, Gabrielle, come to us from St. Cloud, Minn., where he serves as a youth director for Celebration Lutheran Church. On the morning of our telephone conversation, it was 0 degrees with 16 inches of snow on the ground. So the family, which includes daughter Emma, 2, is definitely looking forward to warmer temperatures.
Alex’s journey to St. John’s began in June, when he and Danielle Kosanovich found themselves in the same class at Luther Seminary. Alex, 27, is also studying for a master’s degree in divinity. Naturally, the two talked about youth ministry, and Danielle mentioned there was a position open at her church.
“I was in class at Luther and had heard Alex talk about youth ministry,” Danielle says. “Later in the week, he led us in worship playing the acoustic guitar and I instantly thought – he loves young people and contemporary worship. I’ve got to talk to him! I figured the distance would be an issue, but the Monday I returned to North Carolina, I had an email from Alex that said, “I want to talk about the job.”
And talk they did, Alex says. “Doors were being swept wide open. God works in pretty crazy ways.”
“We’re excited about the vibrancy of St. John’s — just the spirit and the joy people have when they speak of St. John’s.”
Alex and Gabbie are natives of Minnesota and planned on staying there. When he spoke to Pastor Rhodes Woolly in July, Alex told him that he and Gabbie could not move until January, as she was preparing for a semester of student teaching. Gabbie is receiving a master’s degree in early childhood special education.
Pastor Rhodes said, “We can work with that.”
Alex says, “God was busting down doors. It was very scary, but very exciting.”
Alex and Gabbie first visited Salisbury in August when they were in North Carolina for the wedding of his cousin. They also had the opportunity to meet with the Search Committee, which had been working for a year.
Rhodes and Danielle told the committee there was no rush, says Kelly Everhart, who served on the committee. “They told us, whenever we interview the right person, we’ll know it. Rhodes and Danielle said we needed to be patient because we needed to find the right person. It was somewhat frustrating on my part, because I wanted to have that person in place. But the timing wasn’t right. When we met Alex, we thought, ‘This is the one.’”
Kelly adds, “All of us just instantly loved him and knew he would be the perfect fit. We knew God would provide the right person for us if we kept going and prayed for discernment.”
Kelly and Alex hit it off because of their mutual love of hunting, coaching and football.
But that wasn’t what was most important to Kelly. “What I was looking for was someone who could lead my children, Spencer and Anna, and who could relate to our kids. He is fun, energetic and knowledgeable. I think he’s gonna be a great leader for us.”
Kathryn Rusher agrees. Kathryn, a junior at Salisbury High School, was also on the committee.
“I really like Alex,” she says. “He’s super personable and I think he’ll be a great youth leader. I’m really happy with our decision, and can’t wait for him to start in January!”
Alex’s move is even more amazing when you consider he had no plans to work in youth ministry. His grandfather is a retired ELCA pastor, and his youth leaders and pastor at his church all told him, “You’re going to be a youth pastor someday.” Alex laughed.
He was planning a career in law enforcement, but in 2009, the year he graduated, the Minneapolis Police Department was under a hiring freeze.
“It was two months before graduation, and I had no clue what I was going to do,” Alex says.
He decided to apply to be a summer camp counselor at Luther Crest Bible Camp.
“That job changed my life,” Alex says. “My faith was restored, and I found a love for youth ministry.”
At the last minute, he was asked to lead a small mission group to Muncie, Indiana. “That really solidified my love and desire to work with kids. I was able to foster relationships with kids, and I really enjoyed that.”
He worked in Hamilton, Montana, as a youth and family minister. He had begun dating Gabbie during this time as well, and later took the job at Celebration.
“I love youth ministry,” he says. “It’s a challenge — a rough time for some. But it’s such a formative time, as well.”
He says of young people, “There’s something about the energy they bring to their faith that is contagious. Sure, they’re making mistakes, but they’re also making some really solid decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives.”
Alex says he likes the fact that there’s no single way to do youth ministry. “Each kid is different. You love them for that and help them realize that you’re on their side.
Alex and Gabbie also have a love for contemporary worship.
“There is beauty in the Lutheran liturgy and tradition, but I’m drawn to contemporary worship, as well,” he says.
At Celebration Lutheran, Alex and Gabbie have helped to lead contemporary worship for the last two years.
“It fits our gifts musically,” he says. “We both worship by music. There’s something about contemporary music that sparks this deeper connection with us and the Holy Spirit. We feel very connected to God through contemporary worship.”
And youth ministry, he adds. “I can’t wait to get started.”