Youth Ministry, Adoption, and Pursuing God's Call

Lucy Swanson '07, S'12 shares how she explored her calling to ministry while at Bethel and where that calling has taken her since graduation.

By Aiyanna Klaphake '20

March 07, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

Lucy Swanson poses for a picture with her family. Swanson graduated from Bethel's College of Arts and Sciences and Bethel Seminary.

Lucy Swanson found her calling to ministry included growing her family through adoption. (Photo Credit: @hudsondownardphoto)

“Someone told me, ‘If you want to change the world, change someone’s world,’” says Lucy Swanson ’07, S’12. “And that started this whole journey.”

Today, Swanson’s desire to change “someone’s world” has resulted in a career in ministry and the adoption of six children through both the foster care system and international programs.

Swanson transferred to Bethel in 2005 as a junior to study youth ministry after visiting the campus and being impressed by the service learning opportunities and diversity she experienced. “I felt like Bethel was where I needed to be,” Swanson says. “It wasn’t just about an education. Bethel doesn’t just equip you with knowledge. They care about your faith journey.”

After graduating from the College of Arts & Sciences in 2007, Swanson pursued her M.A. in Children’s and Family Ministry at Bethel Seminary. “Seminary really gave me the confidence that this is where I’ve been called to,” Swanson says. “It mentored me into my calling and helped me to spiritually learn who I was as a leader.”

Swanson also appreciated the ability she had to raise tough questions because of the seminary’s smaller class sizes. “The professors really want everyone to have a voice,” she says. “They want you to question some aspects of your faith in order to grow, but they want you to leave seminary with a deeper faith and a deeper calling.” 

Swanson currently works as the director of youth ministry at Central United Methodist Church in Rogers, Arkansas, overseeing faith development in students grades 6-12. While her role is largely administrative, Swanson sees it as an opportunity to pour into the leaders who will in turn pour into the students to whom they are ministering. “I spend a lot of time in meetings or at a desk,” she says, “but I do still get those fun times to have coffee or dinner with leaders or to go sporting events and concerts to catch our youth in their element.”

“I felt like Bethel was where I needed to be. It wasn’t just about an education. Bethel doesn’t just equip you with knowledge. They care about your faith journey.”

— Lucy Swanson

For Swanson, there is no distinction between who she is called to be in her workplace and who she is called to be as a person, something she feels she learned at Bethel. “Going through school, it was always about the calling God’s put on your whole life,” she says. With this mentality Swanson’s passion for youth naturally extends beyond her workplace and into her home. “I always wanted to adopt,” she explains. “[My husband and I] said, ‘There’s children in the world who need families. Let’s go the adoption route. That’s where we feel God directing us.’ And once we were in, we never looked back.”

While the Swanson family had a positive experience adopting their first daughter from Ethiopia, they faced a number of closed doors when pursuing international adoption for the second time, as multiple programs were shut down or put on hold. Although Swanson now believes God was nudging her family toward foster care, she admits she was initially against the idea. “I said I would never do foster care. A word to the wise, never tell God ‘never,’” she says. “I realized I said no to foster care because I was scared it would hurt me… it would break my heart or the children would leave. I finally had one of those moments with God where I realized it’s not about me. These are kids who desperately need love and someone to stand up and advocate for them.”

The Swansons continued exploring foster care, even after adopting three children they had fostered for two-and-a-half years. Swanson and her husband finalized the adoption of their sixth child this past summer. Caring for the children around her and sharing God’s love with them has become a core element of Swanson’s life. “This is what God has called us to do as a family,” she says. “We’ve got to be involved in what God is doing in the world around us... Ministry does not look one specific way. It’s about your whole being and it doesn’t always have to happen in the walls of a place called church.”

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