Ben Jepsen is proving you can go back home again.
After graduating in 2011, the Briercrest alum returned to his home church (Gospel Chapel in Grand Forks, B.C.) as the youth pastor.
“Overall, it’s been amazing,” Jepsen exclaimed. “I have an understanding of the community already that’s here. Also I have an understanding of this church family and I have really good relationships with a lot of people within this church already which has been a huge benefit to me as well.”
The youth pastor admits that there have been some scenarios that could have potentially been downfalls.
“Some of these people babysat me when I was growing up,” he said, speaking of certain individuals within his church’s congregation. “This was especially concerning to me when I was preaching. Getting up in front of a congregation and leading them … is intimidating but also here’s ‘little Ben’ getting up to do a sermon where a lot of people in the church taught me Sunday school and led me in a lot of ways.”
But those problems haven’t materialized.
“I haven’t come across any problems with that,” he said. “I’ve gotten great reception from people actually when I do preach.”
It was through the encouragement of certain individuals within his home church that led Jepsen to desire becoming a youth minister. He began saving and planning to go to his denomination’s Bible college, but then felt God’s leading to go to Briercrest.
“That’s actually where my parents met and went to school,” Jepsen said. “I didn’t know anybody at Briercrest besides a couple of family friends of my parents but I decided to go for it. I did the four-year degree in youth ministry. I felt very affirmed each semester.”
In his third year of studies, the youth ministry student received another big affirmation.
“I received a phone call from the home church here at Gospel Chapel (asking) if I’d be interested in putting my name forward for the youth pastor position,” he said. “I still had a whole year to finish and they encouraged me to make sure I finished that.”
Jepsen submitted his application and was hired with a year to go in his degree program.
“I had a job waiting for me once I graduated, which was pretty unique,” he exclaimed.
Committing early to a job presented some concerns for Jepsen once he became engaged to his wife Shayna.
“One of my biggest fears was starting into this job while we were engaged,” he admitted. “There was no flexibility in the matter of ‘This is where we’re going to be living’ and that kind of thing. This town is about 3,000 people. Her degree’s in TESOL and there was nothing here in terms of that when we came, so what does that mean for Shayna?”
Jepsen’s concerns were short-lived.
“It wasn’t even a year and some TESOL work came up in this town and she’s actually as we’re talking right now with a student teaching TESOL,” he exclaimed. “We are amazingly blessed. We have myself and my wife also using her degree – both in this little town. The Lord has been very gracious to us and we’re just excited to be working together as a couple.”
The Briercrest alum feels the training he received in his youth ministry degree has served him well.
“I’ve kept everything that I did at Briercrest through notes – I had written all my notes in classes,” he remarked. “I refer to them quite often – whether it be how to plan a camping retreat with your youth to preparing good Bible studies and stuff like that. I’m slowly trying to type all of them into my computer actually.”
There’s a particular aspect of youth work that Jepsen especially enjoys.
“Connecting with some of these youth that are so close, or they’re just starting to understand or realize what faith in Jesus means,” he said. “They’re asking really important and amazing questions that I really need to write down because they’re great questions that we Christians don’t always remember or just take for granted.”
Jepsen feels ministering to youth is his life’s calling. He says that comes as a surprise to some people.
“I’m pretty young still but I get asked a lot about what I’m going to be doing after I’m a youth pastor,” he said with a chuckle. “Because people wonder, ‘you can’t be a youth pastor forever.’ (It’s) almost in the sense that you need to grow up.”
“I kind of have to be gentle but say, ‘I would like to be a youth pastor until retirement or work in youth ministry until retirement,’” he said.
Although Jepsen insists that he will continue to follow God’s lead, he feels very fulfilled working with young people.
“I don’t foresee myself doing anything else,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”