By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN Youth minister Drew Nelson knows it will take some time to gain the trust of the young people at his new church, Gethsemane Lutheran Church of Dassel, considering the position’s previous high turnover rate. He assures them, however, that he will prove to them he isn’t going anywhere.
Nelson, who is originally from Rapid City, SD, and finished his degree in ministry at Northwestern College in St. Paul, began Sept. 1 at Gethsemane, replacing former youth director Amanda Dahlseng.
After less than a year at Gethsemane, Dahlseng followed her heart back to Iowa this past spring.
Prior to Dahlseng, Mark Giese had been the youth minister at Gethsemane for about 16 months. He was commuting each day from Sartell, and was called to be a youth and college minister in St. Cloud.
“We have been deeply grateful for all of our youth ministers,” said Pastor Steve Olson, adding that each one brought wonderful gifts to the church.
Now, Olson is equally grateful for the contributions of Nelson and his wife, Kori Anne, and looks forward to what the future holds.
Nelson understands how a short-lived ministry affects the church’s youth and is hoping to prove to the young people that he is in it for the long haul.
“I think it’s sad most youth ministers last under 18 months [at any given church],” Nelson said, adding that he has seen some of the after-effects.
When Nelson arrived, he was met with a bit of apprehension from the youth.
One boy slid a note under his door telling him why he was unhappy Nelson was there. In response, Nelson told the boy in three years, they would be laughing about [the note].
“It will take some time to gain their trust I understand that. The only way to prove it is by doing it,” Nelson said, who has set long-term goals and plans in the church and in Dassel.
Newlyweds, Nelson and Kori Anne are planning to make their home in Dassel, eventually buying a house and starting a family there, he said.
“The people here have been really good to us,” he commented.
As a full-time youth minister, Nelson spends a lot of direct time with the church youth. Recently, he returned from the synod’s junior high youth gathering in Willmar with 20 youth and said he thought it went well.
Every Wednesday, Nelson spends time with the youth playing games, having dinner, and in class time with those already confirmed.
He also oversees the confirmation classes, which includes grades seven through 10.
With 80 meals served and several volunteers, “it’s a small private school on Wednesday, is what it ends up being,” he commented.
Before choosing a career in ministry, Nelson wanted to do something pertaining to sports or medicine. It wasn’t until he volunteered as a small group leader at a church where his friend was youth pastor that his passion in ministry grew.
“I felt God was calling me there,” he said. So, he gave up his other majors and headed into ministry, where he feels his strengths lie.
Nelson also likes the academic and intellectual aspect of theology and hopes to eventually work toward a PhD.
Before coming to Gethsemane, Nelson interned for the summer at a church in Minneapolis.
“It’s been really fun to be a part of a growing church,” Nelson said, about his experience thus far at Gethsemane.
Overall membership has grown 7 to 10 percent this past year, he said.
“The kids enjoy coming, the adults enjoy coming, and that makes my job a lot easier,” he commented.
“I just really enjoy the community,” Nelson said, though he wishes there was more interest in soccer here. “That’s the one part I don’t fit in,” Nelson said, who is a big soccer player.
Looking at the year ahead, Nelson is planning a youth mission trip for July to Cortez, CO, where there are opportunities through Youth Works for kids’ camps and service projects. There is also a senior high synod gathering in March, as well as a plan for a lock-in at some point during the year.
The youth are also interested in doing even more local service projects. Recently, they have raked a yard and helped an elderly couple move to a new residence.
Anyone with service project requests is encouraged to call the church at (320) 275-3852.