similarities with groups that meet once a month consisting of head pastors and other Christian leaders within the area. But there are a number of differences as well, including the obvious one: this collective group is made up of full-time youth workers from churches in West Niagara.

Two years ago, when Ingrid was hired by the Christian school, she began thinking of things she can do to help her do her job more effectively. The idea she came up with would also help the greater body of Christ in the area. “My challenge with this job is to connect with local Christian families and students,” Ingrid remarked. “Most Christians gather in churches. So for me to connect with area churches, and to get to know people within them, and to get to know high school students in particular, I thought, ‘okay, who works with the high school students? All the youth workers.’

“So I made a proposal, probably within the first week after I got (to the school), to the head of the school, Don Rose. Now, I’m used to working in situations in church organizations that take processes, you have to go approvals, and stuff like that. This was March, and I was hoping to have things through the hoops to be ready to go for the new school year. Probably within the day, I got the response that said, ‘sounds great, run with it.’ They were so responsive and supportive of the idea of setting up an opportunity for youth workers to come together and support each other, and to host it.”

As it turned out, Ingrid’s idea was totally in line with the heart of school’s leadership. “Great Lakes has a real sense of mission, a real sense of ministry. They have these facilities, and they use them to educate the next generation, and to equip them to seek, serve, and become like Christ. That is their core principal here. But they realize the facilities are empty at times as well. They realize that their have facilities that can bless other ministries within the community.

There has been an increase in the amount of ministries that exist to unify area Christians and Christian ministries. One such ministry that has been birthed recently is the gathering of youth ministers known as Youth Ministry CONNECT. This ministry was largely brought into existence through the efforts of Ingrid Kielstra, who is in charge of North American Admissions at Great Lakes Christian High School in Beamsville. It does have a number of

“We have the space to be able to host people, and create an opportunity for them to get together and to support each other,” Ingrid continued. “For us, it’s a no-brainer. In fact, ministry to teenagers is totally in line with what we do here daily. So having a support group for youth workers totally fit with their sense of the use of their space, and it totally fit with my objective of trying to know who’s who in the community.

Ingrid remembers the initial planning that followed soon afterward. “I phoned a couple of youth workers that I was aware of, and I think we probably had four or five out for the very first meeting. I connected with a few more people, other people invited people they knew, and I think there are about twelve of fourteen names on the email list now.”

“It’s about having a people to connect with people, that ’talk shop’, that know your ‘business’, that know what you do, whether it be sharing resources, whether it gathering for prayer, whether it be becoming aware of outside events that you can capitalize on, or whether it just be personal discipleship.”

The activities and events sponsored by CONNECT are varied. Guest speakers come in regularly to speak on topics related to the ministers. As well, the planning of an annual Halloween food drive takes up much of the fall.  “Every year,” Ingrid added, “we do one event to bless the community, as unified Christians, and not as separate, segregated churches. That’s the food drive at Halloween.” A Saturday morning workshop in the winter season also allows them team of youth workers “to encourage, and trigger, and stimulate thinking about good ways to do youth ministry— whether it be a specific need in youth ministry, or whether it be the concept of youth ministry as a whole.” The 2015 edition takes place later this month.

Ingrid is pleased with how the gathering has developed. “It’s gone really well. It certainly seemed to have fit a need. And we have youth workers in our area who come from a variety of skill set and experiences, so to have this for each other is a real blessing. People are willing to share: ‘I’ve tried that.’ ‘I found this challenging.’ They understand what each other are up against.”

“When you work in youth ministry, you usually don’t have a team ministry,” she continued. “It’s usually just you. So having that support is a blessing for them. It seems that youth workers are finding that to be true, because they are looking forward to when we get together next.”

Another reason why Ingrid sees CONNECT as a valuable local resource is because of the ultimate goal of the average youth minister: introducing young people to Jesus. “There is a highly evangelical tone to youth ministry, in that we are challenging people to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and as Lord. So there then is this lovely mix of moving people forward in their faith journey, but also introducing people to a faith journey-- to Christ. You have that dynamic, and it’s obvious and understood that both those pieces are part of it. Sometimes when you’re part of adult ministry, you often forget the evangelical side of it, that this also is an opportunity to introduce people to Christ. In youth ministry, identifying each person’s place in their journey is a necessary part of the work.”

Ingrid Kieistra of the local CONNECT Youth Ministry

Food collected from last year's food drive.

“Every year we do one event to bless the community, as unified Christians, and not as separate, segregated churches. That’s the food drive at Halloween.”

A ministry that CONNECTS youth leaders


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February 2015

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