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You’re already busy and on the front lines of youth ministry, so why go to seminary now? Denise Muir Kjesbo, Bethel Seminary’s children’s, youth, and family ministry program director, along with Heather Flies, the program’s youth ministry advisor, weigh in on five benefits you’ll gain—perhaps unexpectedly!—from seminary. 

1. Advocacy for those you minister. 

Although the list of skills and knowledge you’ll gain at seminary is lengthy, the young ones you serve also gain something: advocacy. Children are voiceless in the congregation, and youth are almost voiceless with minimal influence in the life of the church. You have a big responsibility to represent them! 

“It’s so important that the people leading children and youth have a strong voice,” says Kjesbo. “It’s critical that they advocate for families and their concerns before the congregation and before the church’s leadership as they’re making decisions.”

The young ones you lead are co-beneficiaries of your seminary time and effort. Flies, who received her Master of Divinity from Bethel Seminary, says the primary reason she attended seminary was for her students: “I thought my youth kids absolutely deserved it—a youth minister who took the Bible seriously, who had a solid theological foundation, who was legit.”

2. Depth to your everyday life.

Sure, you’ll learn more about the Bible, strengthen your understanding of theology, and grow spiritually. But at Bethel Seminary, you’ll also incorporate principles of proven leadership practices that help you lead on a day-to-day basis. Through this Transformative Education Model, you’ll become more well-rounded at work, at home, and in your community. 

“When people go through an educational process that has this integrative approach, they grow in their ability to respond to God and worship Him daily,” says Kjesbo. “There’s a depth to their own spiritual journey that comes when they have a greater understanding of God’s Word and God’s call in their life. It’s truly a personal, transformational experience.”

3. Growth in your pastoral capacity.

For children’s and youth pastors, a seminary degree allows you to meet those you serve with on the same terms. No matter what your current title is, the questions you learn to ask and the empowering leadership skills you sharpen in seminary allow you to show up to the pastoral staff discussions stronger, more confident, and with enhanced credibility. 

“I’ve had lead pastors come back and say, ‘Our church was changed because our children’s pastor went through your program,’” says Kjesbo. “Your collegiality on your church’s leadership team grows and is deepened and strengthened. It makes a difference for the whole team. You pull up to the table in a new, different way.” 

4. Mentoring. 

Unique to students in Bethel Seminary’s children’s, youth, and family ministry program is access to a mentor. Flies is the program’s youth ministry advisor. She is also junior high minister at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where she has served for nearly 28 years. At Bethel, Flies meets and interacts with students regularly, speaks to classes on a variety of topics, and helps guide and encourage the students during their seminary journey. Her experience and connections are invaluable to students, says Kjesbo.

As a junior high minister, Flies talks to parents every day, is determining what to teach each week, engaging with students on Instagram and Snapchat, and has “been around the block a few times”—in her words. She wishes she had someone who had already logged the years and experience to walk alongside her during her time in seminary—like she is doing for others now. “There are many who could do what I’m doing now, but I’m honored to do it,” she says. “I’m hoping to help students grow even more passionate about what God has called them to do. I love students—they’re the joy of my heart.” 

5. Community.

Children’s and youth pastors can sometimes feel like lone voices on a church staff, feeling others don’t really understand how they’re wired or even grasp the issues they’re dealing with. The “secret sauce” of Bethel Seminary’s children’s, youth, and family ministry program is the cohort, says Kjesbo. When you start, you join a small group of other students—usually 10–12—who you will remain with throughout your program. “Your cohort is a safe place for you to process things that are happening in your church and get perspective. It’s an incredible place to learn what different churches are doing and to learn from your colleagues,” she says. These are students who share your passion and vision for ministry but also your assignments and deadlines. They often become lifelong friends and a blessing to your ministry long after seminary is done. 

Bethel Seminary has a Master in children’s, youth, and family ministry program as well as a children’s, youth, and family ministry certificate program. They stand on their own but can also work seamlessly together. If you begin the certificate program and then decide to move to the master’s program, your certificate classes will roll into your master’s degree; this flexibility means you will not lose time or credits in the middle of vocational changes and decisions. Apply now!

Heather Schnese
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