When I was a sophomore in college, I got cut from the baseball team. The door that I wanted so desperately to stay wide open, allowing me to walk through to become a professional baseball player, was closed abruptly. I didn’t know what to do or even who I was. Although I’d grown up in the church and got baptized when I was 12, so much of my identity was wrapped up in playing the sport I loved. Little did I know that God had other plans for me. Getting cut from the baseball team allowed for more time that I could spend investing in relationships among the family of God that I’d grown up in. My youth minister noticed my change of investment and proceeded to ask if I wanted to step through a different door. He offered me a summer youth ministry internship. He told me there is nothing like serving God and working towards bringing out the best in people.
The summer internship of 1997 at the El Cajon Blvd. Church of Christ changed the trajectory of my life entirely and I am still on that path today. There have been smooth parts of the road, extremely rocky terrain, a few moments when I deliberately tried to find a different path, and just about everything in between. Central to the mission of the family of God is learning to love God, love our neighbors, and help others learn to follow Christ. One of the best ways we can help others grow in faith along their journey is by handing them the keys of leadership. Conejo has always been a church that invests in developing our kids, allowing them to lead and to serve according to their giftedness. Conejo has also used summer youth ministry internships as a way of letting ministry-minded students have more ministry experience as they discern whether or not they want to go into full-time ministry.
We are blessed to have our own Nico Heard join our ministry team as the summer youth ministry intern. Nico just finished his first year at Pepperdine University and is double-majoring in Religion and Music Composition with a Great Books minor. During his time in the youth group, Nico was always faithfully invested. He also took upon himself various leadership opportunities including being an Impact middle school retreat student leader, helping others learn the various tasks of building homes in Mexico, writing group devotionals for our mission trip, and helping me teach class and lead various youth group events. Nico quickly became a trusted friend and someone I could bounce ministry ideas off of. He is led by God’s Spirit and someone I am proud to give more leadership opportunities to. Our youth group will be blessed by his leadership, and I pray that he will grow in his faith and understanding of how God seeks to use him in the Kingdom. Here is a little more from Nico about who he is and what his hopes for this summer are.
What are you currently interested in and what are some things that you love doing?
I am currently invested in reading some of the classic works. I am in the Great Books Colloquium at Pepperdine, and absolutely love it. This summer I am re-reading Dante’s Divine Comedy for fun. I also love writing music, and am currently writing videogame-esque sounding music inspired by Plato’s The Republic.
Why did you choose to come back to Conejo and be a summer youth ministry intern?
Conejo is my home, and it makes sense to come home during the summer. I love the summer programs that are run at Conejo, and wanted to give back to the programs that have fostered spiritual growth in me growing up.
What do you hope to take with you from your youth ministry leadership experience?
I hope to take away a better understanding of how to approach people wherever they are in their life right now. So far I have only ever been a student or a student-leader, so it will be a great experience to now come back in a more ministerial role for the youth group.
What are you excited for the most this summer?
I am most excited for mid-July through mid-August. Teen Camp, the final lesson of my 4-week Summer Youth Series (which you should come to, if you are a teen!), King’s Kamp, and then a trip to Israel with my family and a few other members of my brother’s church up in Minnesota.