By Kerry Drager
Youth Pastor Josh Hodgson of the Community Covenant Church has taken on the role to inspire youth in the Upsala area. His mission is to guide them to follow their interests and goals while staying true to their love in God and learning what it takes to be a good leader.
“The goal for each of the students here is to commit to following Christ and leading in the community,” said Hodgson.
Hodgson became interested in becoming a youth pastor while working toward his applied psychology and Biblical studies degrees at the Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji. He volunteered at a local church he had been affiliated with for more than 10 years before moving down to St. Cloud with his wife where he continued to assist children find their spiritual paths.
After some time as a volunteer at the Westwood Community Church in St. Cloud, Hodgson earned an internship under the youth pastor. He continued to gain experience until he felt confident enough to seek a ministry he could permanently belong to. By the end of winter, he had begun his pursuit for a youth pastor position in Upsala. June 8, he was voted in to become the newest member of the Community Covenant Church.
“My focus is on youth. The seventh through 12th grade students are my emphasis. I aid in confirmation classes and the volunteer corps for youth events,” said Hodgson.
The unique challenges that adolescent individuals face is a focus for youth pastors like Hodgson. Discovering their talents helps many teenagers find their place in the community and guides their spiritual path, he said.
Area youths that exhibit leadership skills are encouraged to serve other communities and churches by sharing their testimonies and ideas. Hodgson’s goal is to send these youths to lead worship teams and other inspirational events. Hopefully, this will draw in more adolescents to become active in their church, he said.
“It is my vision — my opportunity — to spend more time in developing the young leaders in this community. To have them serve some of the other churches and to encourage others,” said Hodgson.
The desire to reach out to vulnerable age groups has a personal beginning for Hodgson. The journey to his career was not an easy one. He was tested on many levels, including his faith in the Lord.
“I attended the University of Minnesota – Morris my freshman year,” said Hodgson. “I didn’t know how to handle life on my own. I was a young adult and I made some bad choices. I realized God wanted me to do something different with my life. A friend of mine told me I should go back to church. God was really calling me to go back to Bemidji and find him again.”
During his senior year at Oak Hills, Hodgson was tested once again. His wife had a complication with their pregnancy and the couple lost their first child. That sent him on an emotional and spiritual spin where he had to once again find his way back to God.
“I had to trust in God through the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in my life. How do I maintain my relationship with him despite having to face something this painful? But it built a stronger relationship with him in my life. It brought me to the point where I have more love and compassion for young people. I want them to have the same trust and reliance in God as I have found.”
These experiences have led to a greater understanding of another group of young individuals who are often overlooked, but desperately in need of spiritual and emotional guidance. Research indicates that young adults who are between the ages of 18 and 25 are experiencing “delayed adolescence.” They are a special group of young people who are struggling to fit into a world where they are rather too old or too young and have the challenge of facing adulthood, independence, work and college for the first time, Hodgson said.
There are few churches that offer services to help young adults, but Hodgson wants to change that.
“Young adults will finish college and come back to this community. That’s the opposite of other small towns in the area. These programs will meet them where they are at. They are often a neglected group,” said Hodgson.