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“This is where my joys line up”: Pastor Laura Henrik becomes Pastor for Youth and Discipleship

By Susan Shinn Turner

When Pastor Laura Henrik first felt the call to ministry, she felt the call to youth ministry.

But she was told by others who worked in that area, “That’s cute, but what do you want to do when you’re 40?”

“At 34,” Pastor Laura says, “I feel a call to youth ministry even more than when I was 20-something.”

This month, Pastor Laura becomes St. John’s Pastor for Youth and Discipleship.

“This is a big move for St. John’s,” she says, “placing an ordained person into a position that will train our youth theologically and sacramentally. It shows the high value this congregation places on youth ministry.”

Pastor Laura says she has always appreciated the role of the associate pastor because it gives her even better access to children and youth. During her first two calls, she says, she was involved with youth ministry. And at her most recent call, she ran a confirmation program with more than 130 confirmation students.

“We confirmed between 38 and 45 students a year,” she says. “It was a young congregation, so all of our ministry was focused on youth.”

When Kai Thurow resigned as youth minister earlier this summer, it gave Pastor Laura and Pastor Rhodes a chance to reassess staff roles. Pastor Laura told Pastor Rhodes she’d be willing to take over youth ministry.

“In the year and a half I’ve been here, my ministry has been focused on children’s ministry, building the curriculum, and working at the CDC,” she notes. “All of my time and energy is spent on youth. This is where my joys line up.”

Pastor Laura will continue her supervisory role in adult and children’s discipleship. The congregation is currently searching for a part time Minister of Adult Discipleship.

Laura and her husband, Davin, are the parents of two young children, discussed the role change.

“He knows that’s where my passion is,” she says. “Now he has more access to plug in, and I’m excited for my kids to grow up seeing what faithful teenagers look like.”

The format of youth meetings will be changing this fall, Pastor Laura notes.

“With a youth group our size, it’s hard for one person to minister to every single sixth through 12th-grader,” she says. Meetings typically average 70 to 90 kids.

She says that she and Kai had already made the decision to move to small group leaders versus youth advisors.

“Our youth will have the same small group leader to build community and have that leader invested in their lives,” she says.

Training is now taking place for 15 small group leaders. There’s a substitute list of five, and a meal planning team of three.

In her new role, Pastor Laura already has a lot of ideas. Her home congregation in Knoxville had 19 members ordained in 17 years. In her own confirmation class of 12, there are three ordained pastors, one church musician, and two who work in non-profit organizations.

“When you put intentional people and intentional conversations in place, it’s not an accident that these things happen,” she says.

 

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