Answering the call
Though he just started as the new youth pastor at Community Alliance Church in Detroit Lakes on July 1, Dave Christensen was already a familiar face to the members of its congregation.
"I have been on staff here as the worship music director for a couple of years," Christensen said.
A native of Thief River Falls, Christensen earned his teaching degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead a little over three years ago, before accepting a position as choir director and general music teacher at Frazee-Vergas High School.
"I love teaching," said Christensen.
So it wasn't a lack of enthusiasm for his job that prompted the Detroit Lakes resident to seek the youth pastor's position at Community Alliance.
Rather, it was a call to ministry that prompted the change, Christensen said, noting that ever since he was in high school, he has been a man torn between two possible career paths: music education, or youth ministry.
"I just didn't feel called into the ministry right out of high school, so I went into teaching," he said. "But I kept an open mind, and I prayed about it, and I really feel as though, at this time in my life, God is calling me."
While working with the church's youth groups under the supervision of Community Alliance's senior pastor, Joel Arndt, Christensen is also working toward his ministerial degree through a study program offered by the Christian & Missionary Alliance, of which the local congregation is a member church.
"It's a correspondence and online study program," he explained.
Since he started working full-time as a youth pastor, Christensen said, "it's been awesome. It's so fun to be building relationships with the kids here."
And Christensen has also been keeping his hand in the music end of things; the students in his high school group have formed a youth worship rock band that performs as part of their weekly group meetings.
There are actually two youth groups at Community Alliance; one for students in grades 7 and 8, and another for grades 9-12. The groups are called Ignite and Collide, respectively.
The junior high group meets on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m., while the senior high group meets from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Both meetings take place in a facility on Summit Avenue, which the groups share with Accel Realty and Serenity Salon.
The space the group uses is their own, however; in fact, they are even decorating it themselves, a project which Christensen calls "a work in progress."
"They've tried to do kind of an industrial-modern feel," he said.
"The kids have created all the art on the walls themselves -- we're still working on that.
"We've got some really creative kids, so I'm kind of letting them run wild with their imaginations on this."
The meeting space also includes a snack shop that includes specialty coffee drinks, smoothies and food.
In addition to the youth groups, "We are also going to have a youth ministry team that will meet twice a month and go out to do service projects within the community."
Christensen is also in charge of the Sunday school classes that meet each week for grades 6-12.
The Wednesday night study groups are more about dealing with everyday problems that the kids face, he noted, like friendships, romantic relationships, and dealing with temptations like alcohol, drugs and sex.
"We try to cover most of the things teens deal with on a day-to-day basis," Christensen said. "Teens are under constant pressure to be involved in things they shouldn't... we try to help them build relationships with each other so they have a strong support network at school. We also try as a staff to come alongside them and work through their troubles with them.
"It basically comes down to showing the love of Jesus to people."
By contrast, the Sunday morning classes stick more to "straight Bible study," examining such things as how the Ten Commandments can be applied to modern living, as well as "what the Bible says about handling finances and how to be responsible."
When he's not working, Christensen likes to spend time with his wife Laura and their two children: Son Jace, 6, and daughter Ava, 3. He also enjoys activities such as playing basketball, watching football and woodworking.
"I play tennis too -- my wife and I play a lot of tennis together," he said.
Though he enjoys his leisure time, Christensen has a true passion for his work as well.
"I know a lot of kids are hurting and searching for purpose in their lives," he said, noting that what he tries to do as a youth pastor is to "introduce them to the person of Jesus Christ and help them find the biblical answers to their questions."