Brendan Stevens, and his wife Krista, might look like any number of young couples residing in down town Rochester. But while many young couples are hyper-focused on their own careers and spend their time immersed in socializing with their peers, Brendan and Krista spend a lot of their time with teens - and sincerely enjoy them. Their sense of fun and joy reflects the energy of the teenagers they work with weekly, right in the heart of Rochester.
"I'm the youth pastor for Thrive Student Ministries, a ministry of Christ Community Church in Rochester. My main responsibility is organizing our weekly Sunday night meetings for 8th - 12th graders, including games and a message on the Bible. We keep them busy with all sorts of fun activities such as bowling, movie nights and lock-ins," explains Brendan. It's not all fun and games, however. The Stevens realize that young people need to find ways to serve others. Calling it 'doing what needs to be done,' Thrive kids constantly find opportunities to reach those around them - visiting children in the hospital, providing gifts to the needy, helping seniors with yard work, (including removing a dead raccoon or two.)
Brendan talks about the best part of his job. "Hands down, my favorite part about working with Thrive is the students. There is a nothing more rewarding than being able to pour into young people's lives. I have the unique privilege of watching them grow and am blessed to have even the smallest part in that process."
Thrive is described as a place young people feel comfortable and challenged simultaneously. "Through interactive games, Biblical teaching and small group time, we encourage community building and equip young people to develop their relationship with a Living God. It is our prayer, that Thrive is just a piece in the puzzle as students gear up for a life-long journey with Christ at the center." Youth from both church and non-church backgrounds merge to find a warm and positive peer group. As older students go on to college years, many have stayed local and continue to work with the younger incoming students, forming friendships that last, mentoring younger teens.
An adult visitor to Thrive won't feel awkward in the room full of lively teens - in fact, these unusually friendly and confident students are likely to make several attempts to engage the visiting adult, by inviting them into a discussion groups or out doors for an impromptu game of football. "The biggest challenge I face as a youth pastor is also one of the things that I appreciate most about the job. I have a responsibility both to the students and the parents to provide an environment conducive to growth, on spiritual, personal and social levels. That can be a tremendous burden but is also a great honor."
Brendan, who attended Thrive himself as a student, explains why Thrive has been a long success in Rochester. "Youth group is a wonderful way for students of all ages to grow and develop. In addition to the teaching from the Bible, youth group is a tremendous place to develop both personal and social skills. Students are invited to be active participants and given opportunities to showcase their unique talents in ways not often available at school or elsewhere. And our particular group has a sense of community that makes anyone feel welcome!"
"Along with our sense of community, we also have the craziest air hockey table this side of the Mississippi. We take it to a whole new level. Protective gear is encouraged."
Thrive meets Sunday evenings at 7 p.m. at their facility in the basement of 130 Walnut, Rochester, MI, 48307. Reach Brendan at (248) 652-7888 or by email at brendan.@christcconline.com