A new youth minister at the First Christian Church is positively impacting the lives of young worshippers.
Pastor John Snidle’s first day at the local church was January 1. Since then he has worked on forming Godly relationships within the church and implementing new fun activities for the church’s youth.
“I am slowly building relationships with all the youth,” he said. “My main goal is to have good relationships with them and gain their trust.”
He described the effort as a slow but steady process.
“It doesn’t take a big event to get to know the kids,” Snidle said. “I have just been hanging out with them.”
The Rev. Mike Dixon said Snidle is a great asset to the church specifically for teen church members and youth approaching the teen years.
“He relates well with our worshippers especially the youth. He is a fun person to be around,” Dixon said.
The church originally had adult volunteers overseeing the youth programs. However Dixon explained as the congregation is growing it was decided a youth minister would be beneficial.
“We were looking for someone to devote more time and energy. We found John, who is extremely responsible, and has a good solid background in the church,” said Dixon.
Snidle, 23, grew up in Olney and attended Olney Central College for one year before transferring to Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln where he earned a bachelor’s degree in spiritual formation. After completing his internship, Snidle accepted a position at a church in Frankfort, Mich., where he served for a short period as the youth minister.
When that position didn’t workout, Snidle moved back to Olney and started looking for employment. He was a substitute teacher and an employee for a concrete construction company. He even attempted to start his own small business.
Snidle believes those jobs didn’t workout because God has a bigger plan for him.
“God leads me, and I fought him a little bit, but he kept bringing me back to ministry,” Snidle said. “Initially, when I was younger I hadn’t even thought about being a minister. Later, I knew I wanted to work in a church in some fashion and possibly be an adult minister on a campus but apparently I wasn’t ready for that according to God’s will. I am very happy to serve here.”
Snidle oversees the church’s weekly Wednesday night youth groups with the help of church volunteers. He always plays a fun YouTube video before sharing the church announcements, leading a prayer and delivering a brief message followed by a closing prayer.
God’s Gang is a group for kindergarten through fifth grade students and the Cross Roads is a group comprised of junior high age students. The groups meet after school at 3:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. The high school youth group meets at 6:30 p.m., and the meetings are open to the public.
Snidle has planned several events for the youth. The junior high group attended the Believe-Christ in Youth conference at Anderson, Ind. Believe is a weekend event for junior high students packed with powerful worship and God’s teachings.
He took the high school worshippers to a Rend Collective concert in Rock Island. He is currently planning a weeklong trip for the high school students to attend an Oil Belt Christian Service Camp in Flora. From the camp, the group travels to the Current River in Missouri for a unique canoeing and hiking experience in which the worshipers have to create shelters made from tarps before spending 24 hours alone with God.
“It’s a very special week for a unique experience that most kids don’t get to experience,” said Snidle. “It’s basically a week in God’s creation and a time to get away from technology and distractions so we can focus on God.”
He noted the experience is based on the Bible book John I.
Dixon believes Snidle is already impacting the lives of the youngsters.
“They are responding well to him especially to the special events and out-of-town trips,” Dixon said. “We feel good about it. The adults are supporting him and being helpful during the transition.”
The church has set a goal that Snidle will not only be present at the place of worship but also at community events, youth athletics and school functions. Both men agree Snidle will not only teach the word of God at church, but he will also be a strong support person in the community by showing encouragement to the youth in all things they do such as athletics, clubs, school events and community gatherings.
“I am most looking forward to seeing what God is going to do with me in this position,” Snidle said. “Personally, I see the youth group growing and my connection with them so that when they leave the church setting they can serve God. Faith is not just in the church building, it needs to be everywhere. God is going to continue to do good things.”
Snidle eventually hopes to create small groups for adults and the youth with the help of more volunteers. Another one of his goals is to implement a children’s sermon, which he described as a more modern time of worship with a message.
For the immediate future, he is staying focused on carefully building relationships and a successful youth program. Snidle said he read most youth ministers overestimate what they can accomplish during their first year and underestimate what they can accomplish in five years.
“Like First Timothy explains, don’t be afraid to work in the church,” said Snidle. “I may not have many talents or skills, but I can serve the kingdom. No matter where I am at, I can serve the Lord.”
In addition to the Wednesday groups, the church has a service at 8 a.m., Sunday School at 9 a.m. and another service at 10 a.m. on Sundays.