The first chapter of my ministry career took place as the director of an ecumenical youth ministry in Ashland, PA. In 1994, I was hired by Oasis Youth Services (in Manheim, PA) to be the director of their first expansion into another community.
My work with Oasis Youth Services included the launch of a teen drop-in center that provided a safe and positive environment for hundreds of teens. The center was open 4 days a week and would regularly draw up to 100 teens in an evening. I managed a staff of adult volunteers from nearby congregations who served as mentors to the teens, particularly focusing on youth that were considered “at risk”.
Teens that connected with Oasis Youth Services through the drop-in center were invited into recreational sports, discussion groups that taught life skills, and weekend retreats that explored faith and discipleship.
The ministry of Oasis Youth Services helped shape my approach to ministry and led me to consider it a lifelong vocation. I learned the simple yet important truth that young people are impacted most profoundly by caring relationships. All programs considered to be “youth ministry” must begin with people who are willing to truly know and love young people for who they are.