Youth ministry is about cultivating relationships
Trent Horner, the well-loved youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Paris, did not always know he wanted to be involved in youth ministry. Growing up, Horner struggled with many of the same issues, doubts and frustrations teens face today. It wasn’t until his senior year of high school Horner realized God was truly calling him to youth ministry.
As a high school sophomore, Horner joined a youth group in his hometown. His pastor there poured into Horner and showed him what it’s like to love people the way God does. When he graduated and went to a Christian college, Horner’s convictions were only confirmed more. He sent his resume in to several churches, and it was found by Pastor Troy Warner of First Baptist.
Horner is originally from a little town near Indianapolis, about three hours away from Paris. Coming to Paris was not something Horner had in mind from the start.
“I didn’t find Paris, Paris and Pastor Troy found me,” he says.
Youth ministry has not always been easy, and the decision to come to Paris, so far from where Horner had been his whole life, was a difficult decision at first. However, Horner says, “there’s no turning back now.” God has made it very clear to Horner that he’s in the right place.
“God confirmed my calling,” said Horner, “If God calls you to it, he’ll lead you through it.”
Once he got to Paris, Horner has never doubted whether or not he’s doing the work he was meant to do.
“I really have a burden for students going through the same things I went through, some dealing with way worse than I ever went through,” he said.
The amount of blessing and the amount of work involved in ministering to students in Paris are equal. Family and drug problems are some of the largest issues Horner sees among teens in Paris.
“Most of the problems these kids deal with are caused by their parents, which means it’s not an easy fix,” he said.
Ministry extends beyond the scheduled youth group times for Horner. That doesn’t mean he has people coming over to his house every single day, but it does mean he offers a place of escape. All of Horner’s students know they can call or text him any time, and he’ll be there for them. Sometimes, students just need a friend.
Horner’s former youth pastor is still active in his home church back in Indiana and his dedication continues to inspire Horner. Some youth groups go through several youth pastors in a very short amount of time, which is not always positive. When talking to kids from those types of youth groups, Horner has found they lack the time to build connections with their leaders when they cycle through so quickly. His goal is to give the kids in his youth group the stability they may lack in the rest of their lives.
“I feel like God has called me for longevity and to stick with it,” Horner says. “So many people give up. I see youth ministry like planting a fruit tree. It doesn’t seem to produce much in the beginning, but now we’re six years in and seeing the fruit.”
Legacy Youth Group, the one Horner leads at First Baptist, is an example of what is possible with consistency and patience. Legacy goes on two trips each year with a mission trip in the summer and a winter retreat every January. The mission trips are outward focused, put together to minister to other people, and the retreats are more inward focused, for the youth group to grow closer together and closer to God.
The biggest blessing of youth ministry for Horner is seeing students making the decision to follow Jesus on their own. “I love seeing lives changed for the better,” he said.
Youth ministry is not without it’s challenges, but through it all Horner continues to remind himself that results take time. There’s no doubt in his mind about where God has called him to be.
Legacy Youth Group meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday, and all students between sixth and 12th grade are welcome to join.