Intern Emily Martin's status changed from a "new" to a "cool sort of" staff person after only a few weeks at Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans this summer.
Miss Martin, 20, a sophomore at Methodist-affiliated LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga., is cutting her teeth on youth ministry while earning credit toward a bachelor's degree with a double major in religion and Spanish and an emphasis in Christian education.
Though she remains undecided about post-graduation plans - she might teach or serve in another area of ministry - she's enjoyed her work, she said. "It went pretty much the way I expected it to go. It was good. It was a good experience..."
Youth pastors generally have a short career - about 18 months, according to Scott Franklin, youth pastor at New Hope Worship Center.
But most need that much time before they become effective, he said. "I personally see it as a calling. This is where I'm at."
Miss Martin shares an office with Clay Miller, Wesley's director of youth ministries. Her duties range from handling the office and sending out cards to helping plan events and trips.
"I help programs go smoothly," she said.
When more than 400 squirming, jumping, singing believers turned up at Wesley's vacation Bible school this week, she was ready. She'd signed up more than 100 youth volunteers to shepherd them from crafts to snacks to storytelling.
Youth group members did a good job assisting the vacation Bible school teachers, she said. "They were responsible and stayed where they were supposed to and did what they were supposed to."
The first time she lead a Sunday night youth group solo, it was really good, really fun and "I was really nervous," she said. "I kind of knew I would be. I do (get nervous) when I talk in front of people." But she also sensed the youth accepted her.
When she looks at them, she can easily see herself a couple of years ago, said Miss Martin, a Wesley member for nine years.
The heart of her job is to nurture relationships with youth group members, letting them know she is a person they can trust, she said. "Growing up here, I know a lot of them. These are the ones I baby-sat."
There are also new faces around. "It is neat to see how Wesley kids have brought others and to see how their lives have changed," she said.
While some students she remembers have matured and grown spiritually, others have slipped, Miss Martin said. "I guess I really would like to try to somehow reconnect with them and bring them back."
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.