HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 30, 2006

New youth director brings guidance to children

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The children of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cokato now have a new youth director to look toward for guidance and support.

Jason Baumgartner felt a calling, changed his major and graduated with a degree in Youth and Family Ministry at Augsburg University in 2003.

He was the first youth director at his hometown church in Breckenridge for two years before beginning his new job at the Evangelical Church in November.

After being a camp counselor, Baumgartner felt a “spiritual calling.”

“It was a hard road for me and my friends growing up and I wanted to help kids realize Christ is the only path to get out of the darkness,” he said.

Baumgartner loves kids. With a 10-month-old son and another on the way, he believes kids want guidance and he enjoys being a role model for them.

He feels God gave him the gifts of speaking, communicating and relating to the youth he works with.

“I want them to grow up feeling a sense of community, support and love, and that Jesus Christ is someone they can turn to,” Baumgartner said.

“Life is a mystery and we have to leave it in the hands of God,” he added.

As a youth director, he plans, implements, and communicates youth activities, facilitates confirmation and youth groups on Wednesday nights, leads community meetings, and is a spiritual guide for youth of the church.

“It’s all worth it to see the smiles and to hear the inspirational stories of the choices kids have made in their lives...and to see them finding fun in church...and them knowing Christ is there no matter what,” Baumgartner explained.

He focuses on service, fellowship, and outreach.

Fellowship, he said, is for fun, outreach is bringing more people to the Lord, and service is for helping others.

For example, this March, he and the youth will be feeding the homeless at Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis.

The church is in a transition, he said, with Pastor Steve Thorson coming only seven weeks before Baumgartner, and with the church experiencing a high turnover with youth ministers.

He affirms that he is not a “youth pastor” but a “youth director.”

“I don’t have the extra four years of college to be called a pastor,” he said modestly.


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