Seminary alum Dave Mergens on the lessons he’s learned, his passion for youth ministry, and the importance of a relationship with God.
I’m the Junior High Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Brooklyn Park.They offered me the position during the last year of seminary at Bethel. I was doing the Master of Arts in Christian Education/Youth Ministry program. I’m passionate about that age group, and I had the training, but at first I didn't feel prepared. I'd never been a full-time pastor on staff at a church. I still feel like I have many areas to grow in.
It’s kept me constantly dependent on God. There have been times where I’ve felt pretty good about what I’ve been able to do there. But at the same time, I get knocked down really quickly when that next crisis comes up, that next challenge in ministry, which happens quite often.
Two years ago I took a winter retreat with our junior high. On Saturday night I read them James 5:16, “ Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” For the next 4 hours I had students who would get up, one after the other, and confess things that they had told nobody. And have students who would get together and share and pray for each other. It was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in ministry.
I walked away feeling like God accomplished some amazing things. It renewed my passion for youth ministry.
I really want my students to understand the big picture about God. And understand that nothing else is going to work in their lives unless they get that right. I’ve had to accept that I can’t control that outcome as much as I want to. I’d love to force every one of my students to follow Jesus Christ. But I can’t. I feel guilty when they don’t. So I’ve had to let a lot of that go and give my best effort as I submit myself to God in humility and let Him take care of the results. That’s been one of the biggest lessons for me as of late.
Seminary taught me humility. I really learned I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and that life was not about me. I could spend the rest of my life in an academic setting and still have lifetimes more to learn about God and being a pastor. It’s an attitude that has kept me learning and growing in my relationship with God and as a pastor.
I’ve taken a step back and am always asking questions. What can I learn? Whether it comes from a tough experience on a mission trip, or a personal devotional I’m doing, or a book I’m reading. Not just coming to my own conclusions right away, but really asking questions. And seeking God out. Where can I grow in this area?
I lived in seminary housing. That was the first place my wife and I moved into. It was community. I really appreciated that. I lived down the hall from people who were in the same mindset and taking the same classes and doing homework. If you didn’t have something, someone else did. And everyone shared.
Seminary was really valuable to me on a personal level. Before I am a pastor on staff, or a husband, or a dad, I am in a relationship with God. Bethel shaped that in me and helped me deepen that desire, appreciation, and love for God. From that relationship I’ve been successful in all other areas of my life.
I helped start a website called findlocalchurches.com. A lot of people are searching online for churches, and not finding a good place to go for useful information about getting involved. On our site, churches can manage and update their own profiles so everything is current and accurate. We need community. The site is about connecting people to church.
The Body of Christ is important to me as a pastor. I feel called to offer a way to encourage that connection even if I can’t personally reach out to each and every person.
More info about Dave
Spending time with my wife and children, hunting, fishing, golfing, and any Minnesota sports team