Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

Going where the youth are:

Youth minister reaches out to build relationships
Jeff Boyer describes advantages of youth ministry degree program at Huntington University, a Christian college.

"Because of what Huntington taught me, I'm relational with people, with no inhibitions about sharing Christ and loving others without condition. I do all that — and pray like crazy for them."

To find 1993 Huntington University grad Jeff Boyer, you might have to be something of a sleuth. You’d have to scour local school cafeterias and any number of athletic and musical events, as well as weekly sessions of craziness, sharing and worship within the student groups at East Side Church of God in Anderson, Ind.

In other words, you’d have to go where the kids are.

"To be an effective youth minister, you can have no fears or inhibitions," said Jeff. "You have to get out of your territory and get to know kids. Some of them may end up at the next student meeting. Some of them may be brought to Christ through that initial encounter."

Jeff makes it clear that his job is all about building relationships, which is something he learned at Huntington, where one of the primary things talked about and modeled was building one-on-one relationships.

"Dr. David Rahn, department head of educational ministries and youth ministries, is a teacher in life," Jeff said. "He took my friends and me along when he did ministry, giving us an invaluable role model. He made us feel that he wanted us around as a friend. He’d shoot hoops with us. And through it all, he built a relationship, just as I do now in my ministry. Because of what Huntington taught me, I’m relational with people, with no inhibitions about sharing Christ and loving others without conditions. I do all that-and pray like crazy for them."

Yet, when Jeff came to Huntington, he was unclear about where he was headed professionally. Although thoughts of ministry had occurred to him, he’d kept them at bay, because he associated ministry with both low pay and low prestige.

"Human selfishness got in the way," Jeff recalls.

First, he majored in political science. Then, he switched to communications. And then, he changed course again — this time to psychology — before he finally paid heed to God’s call.

It was a talk with Rahn that helped him find his direction. "He challenged a friend and me to take just one class, Foundations of Christian Education, to see if it fit," Jeff says. "The class provided God’s confirmation that ministry was where I belonged. I fell in love with all I heard and experienced."

Jeff took full advantage of all the opportunities at Huntington, participating in track and student government. He eventually served as student-body president. "As president, I sat on the board of trustees," said Jeff. "It was very helpful to learn the business side of things. It’s proved to be helpful with my ministry."

He also spent a summer serving as an intern for the youth pastor of his home church in North Webster, Ind. The internship led to his serving as interim youth minister there for seven months while he was still a student at Huntington. "I got invaluable hands on experience during my years at the college."

Jeff has no regrets: "Sure, there are times you get discouraged," he said. "I could make more money. I have the skills and talents to do many other things. But I wouldn’t be happy because I would have ignored my calling."

While his life and ministry have led him away from Huntington, what the college gave him is never far from his thoughts.

"When I came to Huntington, I saw everything as black or white," Jeff said. "I left with an open heart and mind. Huntington challenged me to look past the surface, and that was huge for me. If it hadn’t been for my time at Huntington, there are some kids whom I would have simply blown off, thinking there was no hope. Now, I know there’s always hope."

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