Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

Youth ministry major enjoys the ‘waves’ of experiences on PRIME

Justin Sommer 2011

“The pastor allows me to teach whenever I want so I’m getting lots of practice."

The sun shines bright on Justin Sommer as he waits for that perfect wave. A dolphin fin approaches his right side as he sits in the water.

“This is crazy,” he thinks to himself.

The wave comes near and takes hold of him, but he stands at the last moment and rides the current toward shore on his six-and-a-half-foot surfboard. It’s not exactly a hobby he’s used to, having grown up in the Midwest, but this senior youth ministries major was enjoying every moment of his time out in California on PRIME.

Sommer, of Berne, Ind., worked as the youth ministry intern at Covenant Presbyterian Church in North Park, Calif., a city near San Diego. He ministered primarily to younger audiences in middle school, high school and college. He also worked firsthand with the Urban Youth Collaborative, an organization determined to connect youth groups and public schools. He also helped recruit and lead various Bible clubs in the schools.

“This is a good distance between me and what I’m used to,” Sommer said. “I wanted an urban context setting. I grew up in a rural community my whole life so I knew going urban would challenge me every day. The pastor and I also clicked well when discussing the idea of me going out there for PRIME.”

PRIME is an internship experience designed by the Ministry and Missions department at Huntington University. The PRIME (Practical Research and Immersion through Ministry Effectiveness) program prepares students to enter the field of ministry after graduation. Ministry and missions students choose a location of their choice during the months of May through December after their junior year. These students are then mentored by experienced ministry leaders.

This PRIME experience has been unique for Sommer. Not only does he strive to keep the attention of all his students, but must design his lessons while keeping both middle and high school age groups in mind.

“The pastor allows me to teach whenever I want so I’m getting lots of practice,” he said.

He also had the chance to lead a missions trip to Mexico to build houses with his students. He witnessed firsthand how much planning goes on behind the scenes for missions trips.

“You have to make sure you cover all your bases,” he said. “You have to be flexible.”

As his PRIME experience concluded, Sommer felt more affirmed in his calling to enter into youth ministry than ever before.

“The church here has been supportive of me and helped me develop my spiritual gifts,” he said. “After I finish leading worship or leading a missions trip or leading a lesson, people come up to me and offer me encouragement and constructive criticism.”