Just five months after graduating from Huntington University’s M.A. in Youth Ministry Leadership, Scott Gillenwaters has put into practice what he learned in the classroom. Gillenwaters is Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He works with the 6th grade Confirmation program, student ministry for grades 7-12, and college student outreach.
“My experience at Huntington opened new doors into the research field of youth ministry,” Gillenwaters says. And he uses much of this research in his current ministry program.
“For instance, I’m using what I learned to create deeper small groups, more opportunities for spiritual growth, and processes of evaluation to determine the effectiveness of what we’re doing,” says Gillenwaters.
Gillenwaters is also working on coordinating student ministry areas in the church, something he has researched both in the Youth Ministry Leadership
program and recently with Dr. Terry Linhart. Together, Gillenwaters and Linhart are working on a research article titled “Are Youth Buying?”
“[The article] will summarize my research into the question of what motivates students to participate in youth ministries,” Gillenwaters said. “I'm planning to turn that project into a more readable book. It is my hope that youth leaders will be able to see how different programs within their ministries can work in concert with each other, rather than be stand-alone programs.”
Gillenwaters is appreciative of the knowledge and understanding he acquired through his studies at HU.
“When I first began classes I was afraid there would be a lot of theological differences between me and other students,” Gillenwaters said. “Although there were some differences, there was such an atmosphere of growing and learning from each other that our differences became learning opportunities. Through those great talks (many of which occurred outside of class) I was not only able to grow in my own faith but also learn to appreciate the differences in other theologies.”
Gillenwaters can see the difference a degree in Youth Ministry Leadership has made in his interactions with others.
“My contributions to conversations have changed greatly. I have a greater knowledge base to be able to address issues. People are actually turning to me now for advice.”
What is his advice for students?
“Make the program your priority, and give it 100 percent.”In his search for graduate schools with counseling programs, Jeff Knutsondiscovered Huntington University. At first HU seemed like any other school, but when he decided that faith was an important factor in the matter, HU floated to the top in his list of choices.
His choice meant a significant sacrifice. Jeff and his wife moved from Oregon to Indiana so that he could enroll in the program. Soon after arriving at HU in August,Jeff realized he had made the right move.
After struggling with his faith for several years, Jeff considers his stay at HU a spiritual journey back into living right with God. He admires the passion for the growth of Christian counselors exhibited by Dr. Jerry Davis, director of HuntingtonUniversity’s graduate counseling program. Jeff appreciates the interest shown by his professors and staff members in his personal, spiritual and professional growth.
“What I find most beneficial is the devotional that many of the professors start with at the beginning of each class as well as the presentation of psychological theories from a Christian perspective,” Jeff said. “Psychology and spirituality do not have to disagree as most schools teach it.”
Jeff admits that most graduate programs are small and that allows them to offer a more personalized attention. However, he states that HU’s program goes “above and beyond.” Jeff describes his professors as accessible and devoted to their students. He believes they are truly concerned with their well-being.
“I am so very thankful for the support, love, discipleship and gentle correction that I have experienced from a wide range of sources since I arrived,” Jeff said. “I would not give this experience up for anything.”
Jeff has been challenged with finding balance between being a full-time student and a husband. The program requires 20 to 30 hours of reading per week and 10 hours in class per week. He is also expected to complete projects, papers and any other assignments.
“I appreciate the amount of work I put in because I know that the more work I put in, the better prepared I will be to enter the counseling field when I graduate,” Jeff said.
At the same time, Jeff admits that his family support has helped him through this journey as well.
“Fortunately I am blessed with a very patient and loving wife, and a very supportive family,” Jeff said. “I truly would not be successful in this program without all of them.”
Jeff encourages others, who may be considering the counseling program at HU to think of what they want to get from the program. In his experience in searching for a counseling program, he said most schools do not include faith as an important part of psychology—unlike HU. Other programs focus on the relation between the mind and the body, but the matter of spirituality is not as relevant.
“At HU, the emphasis is on the whole person’s mind, body and spiritual health in the way that God designed us as human beings in His image,” said Jeff. “That makes all the difference in the world.”
Jeff expects to graduate in the fall of 2011 with an M.A. in Counseling.