Earlier this week I was interviewed by a student who is working on a Boy Scout project. His questions were about how I ended up in ministry. Later I realized I had never shared that here with you guys, so it’s story time!
In 1980 I was born to a newlywed couple living in Pennsylvania. My Dad graduated from seminary a few years before and in 1981 accepted a pastorate position at a church in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the church he still pastors to this very day. I grew up in that church and watched my Dad in ministry every day. Even at a young age, one thing became clear: I did NOT want to be a pastor. I saw a lot behind the scenes of leading a church and I had absolutely no desire to want to deal with those things myself one day. Regardless, my parents made me and my siblings help lead a lot of ministry-related aspects of the church, such as leading music, sharing testimonies, and teaching Bible studies to adults and peers. They raised us to see the church not as a place that we merely attend, but rather a place where we participate and lead others. It was a place where we had a responsibility to serve.
Being a smaller church, we didn’t have a youth group until my teen years when some other parents in the church decided to pull us together once a week for a “youth group meeting.” Looking back, I can tell that their hearts were in the right place, but the meetings actually did more to push me away from youth group than anything else. I participated because I was a P.K. and it was expected that I show my support.
The first turning point came during high school when my Dad strongly encouraged me to attend a leadership breakfast hosted by Student Venture, the high school ministry of Campus Crusades for Christ. Despite knowing absolutely no one there, Dad dropped me off at the breakfast that cold rainy morning and arranged for some Student Venture leader named Bob Klein (pictured to the right) to drive me home afterwards. It turned out that Bob wanted to get together with me again after that drive home. I don’t remember agreeing to it, but the next thing I know I was attending the weekly Student Venture meetings and spending one-on-one time with Bob. Before long, he was frequently taking me out to lunch, teaching me how to share my faith using the Four Spiritual Laws and letting me tag along with him as he witnessed to complete strangers and hung out with kids after school.
The second turning point came while I was hanging out with Bob one afternoon, watching him share his faith with a group of random students at a pizza shop hang-out. I had seen him do this many times before, so I nonchalantly sipped on my lemonade while he did his thing. About the time he would usually introduce the Four Spiritual Laws, he instead handed me the booklet and said, “Tim is going to show you how you can have a relationship with God and enjoy heaven with Him one day.” I choked on my drink! I reluctantly took the booklet, though, and went through it with them the best I knew how. Afterwards Bob debriefed with me about the experience and shortly thereafter I was helping him plan Bible lessons, outreach events and follow-up discipleship with new believers from the high school. It was through my relationship with Bob that youth ministry became contagious, almost an attitude or a way of life. He pushed me out of my comfort zone many times, challenged my faith and capitalized on the strong ministry legacy my parents had left.
Youth ministry has been part of my blood ever since. After high school, I commuted to Philadelphia College of Bible (now Philadelphia Biblical University), worked with Student Venture my freshman year until Bob was transfered to Ohio. Shortly thereafter I became an intern at a fairly large local church and in October of my sophomore year (1999) I left my Dad’s church and started working there as a small group leader and teacher, later to become the High School Director in 2001.
As many church youth ministries do, the youth group at that church really cut back a lot during the summer, relieving me of most of my responsibilities. So, rather than sit around and work a normal job that would pay for college, I took the opportunity to go away somewhere and serve in youth ministry. In 1998 and 1999 I served as a counselor at a Christian camp I attended every year as a kid. In 2000, a church in Virginia Beach actually took me, a 19-year-old kid, to serve as their interim youth pastor! The final three weeks of that summer I spent in Amsterdam working with Billy Graham’s Amsterdam 2000 evangelism training conference. When summer of 2001 came around, I had made a connection with Bill Scott of ZJam Youth Ministries in Nashville, Tennessee, and moved there to work with the radio show, write daily Bible studies, direct TeenHopeLine.com and a lot more. That’s also the summer God provided just enough money so I could pay for college the next semester and still have $0.81 left over in my bank account after I purchased books! After graduating from college, I spent the summer of 2002 directing a camp for inner-city Angel Tree children before I drove to Texas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary.
While in seminary, I served as a youth pastor at two different churches, one being a church plant that closed a year after I joined (not because of me! lol) and the other at a church where the pastor later moved to Minnesota and connected me with the youth ministry position at his new church, the position I currently hold.
All this because my parents taught me from a young age that church is a place where you serve and because an adult built a relationship with me whose passion for sharing Christ with students became contagious. If you need proof that relationships are more important than programs, here I am!
The Schmoyer Family
Posted on February 20, 2008