Huntington, Ind.—It’s just like in kindergarten – no one likes doing anything alone. And the idea doesn’t change much when you are in graduate school.
Brian Leslie and Eric Carter are two of Huntington University’s four students who will be graduating on May 15 with Master of Arts degrees in youth ministry leadership. The online hybrid program prepares graduates to influence the practice of youth ministry by expanding their vision for leadership through youth ministry and unleashing the potential of their own spiritual formation. This is the first class to graduate from the program.
As youth ministers, Leslie and Carter were already skilled in their crafts, but conferences and seminars were not pushing them to the next level they were seeking. It was an online search that brought them to Huntington.
“I felt like there was more out there as far as a deeper level of study,” said Carter, 27, who currently works as a junior-senior high youth minister at Plainfield Christian Church in Comstock Park, Mich., outside of Grand Rapids. “Where a conference is OK, this just adds a greater level of depth.”
Leslie, 38, who works as a youth minister in Plainfield, Ind., (an unaffiliated church also called Plainfield Christian Church, oddly enough), said Huntington’s program stood out from all the others. Here, professors dialog with students, the work was more challenging and camaraderie was created among students.
“I just don’t know if you would get that everywhere,” Carter added.
Carter began his full-time work in ministry in 2004, having worked under Leslie as an intern. But his passion for youth ministry began long before when he joined a Christian band and discovered his love for youth ministry while on tour.
“I just kind of realized that I could probably do anything educationally, but that’s not where I felt God was calling me,” Carter said.
Through that desire, he changed schools and earned an undergraduate degree in youth ministry. It was the “tug,” as Leslie described it, that brought both Carter and Leslie to seek graduate degrees at Huntington.
“For me, it’s about continuing to do youth ministry in my local context but with better tools,” Leslie said.
Leslie has been involved in ministry for 15 years. He entered the field after his own youth minister sparked an interest in him to pursue it full time. Following an undergraduate degree in Biblical studies, he began his lifelong career in youth ministries.
Both Leslie and Carter admit that the last four years have not been easy. They have juggled jobs and families on top of classes and other assignments, but they admit, it has been a rewarding experience that they would not trade, especially since they were able to do it together.
“For me, I think the experience has been richer,” Leslie said. “Going through the program together has helped us to finish strong.”