When Jared Larsen first got involved in youth ministry, he felt neither called nor equipped. He felt compelled by God. So, he reluctantly took on a small-group leader role in the grade school and middle school program at his Minnesota church.

A year later, when the church youth director asked him to take charge of the church’s entire pre-high school program, Jared again was reticent. But God persisted, and Jared said “yes.”

Flash forward to his arrival on the coastside and Mariners, Jared had expected a break from youth ministry. But then Pastor Paul asked the congregation for help with the high school program, and God nudged again. Jared stepped up into the role and has been involved with Mariners youth ever since.

“People talk about being compelled to do something. I now understand what that means” explained Jared, who currently volunteers as interim youth director.  “When it came time to step up and help, there was no question in my mind that I would say ‘yes.’ ”

The transition from Midwest to West Coast youth culture was a challenge. “At Mariners, a vast majority of youth enter the program relatively unchurched.  I was talking from a conservative Midwest standpoint to a bunch of coastside teenagers.  I failed miserably!”
But God has provided him with the wisdom and resources to adjust to meet this and other challenges.

For example, he’s learned its particularly important to speak from the heart, in a genuine voice. “When you get up in front of high school students, you cannot B.S. them. You have to earn their trust.  And if you speak about things you don’t really believe, they’ll know” Jared said.

Jared said that while he can identify significant spiritual change in a handful of youth during his years in ministry, he’s mostly planting seeds.

“My prayer every week is that we manage to get some truth into one kid’s life. No matter what we’re doing,” Jared said.

He recalls that his maternal grandfather was involved in church for years and adhered to Christian principles but did not accept Christ until near the end of his life.

“His mind started bringing up all the things he’d learned in the church. These things, combined, resulted in a faith experience before he passed away,” Jared recalled. “Those seeds that we plant in kids every week, hopefully they come alive when they are needed.”

Mariners has a need for more men to work in our youth and children’s ministries. If you have interest or questions, call Jared at 952-393-9374.

By Dan Page, Volunteer Storyteller