The whirl of activities for children and students at Prestonwood Baptist Church, the camps and mission trips and events that keep the kids engaged, come with a purpose—to raise up the next generation of Christian leaders.
That’s part of the DNA of the Student and Children’s ministries.
And this summer was incredibly encouraging, said Minister to Students Clint Ivy.
“We have kids who are coming back, affirming that what we’re doing works,” he said. “They’re continuing in their faith, not abandoning their faith, staying pure, staying focused.
“Our summer interns (in Plano) were all former students, from four different high schools and now four different colleges,” Clint said. “And they were pouring back into the church, pouring back into students who are sitting where they sat just a few years ago.”
Diana Pendley, Minister to Children, was thrilled to welcome familiar faces as well.
College students Victoria Miller, Bailee Flake, Carson Conway and Alex Jones interned with the Student Ministry, where they spent their high school years.
But as familiar as the students were with the ministries, the attention given to even the smallest detail gave the interns a completely different perspective.
Even Diana’s son, Michael, now a student at Baylor University, was surprised.
“He said, ‘Mom, I knew you’ve worked there for all these years but I never realized until now how hard it would be,’” she said.
“We don’t talk about work when we get home,” Diana said, “so I thought that was hilarious.”
Most of the Children’s Ministry interns are college students, Diana said. But because June is so busy, and college students sometimes can’t arrive that soon, she has used high school students for the last two years to help with the rush of activities that begin with Adventure Week.
So the Children’s Ministry had two PCA juniors and longtime Prestonwood members Cole Trammel and Parker Panetti filling in the gaps and getting things rolling, and they did an amazing job, she said.
For the Student Ministry interns, just a couple of years removed from Sunday morning Table Groups and participating in events rather than organizing them, the differences were startling.
“Being on the other side gives you a different perspective,” said Alex Jones, a PCA graduate and Ouachita Baptist University student. “You never understand how much work goes into everything.”
Carson Conway, whose parents have been Prestonwood members since before he was born, also interned in the Student Ministry.
“It was really interesting to see how much goes into everything the ministry does,” said Carson, a graduate of Allen High School and now a student at Texas A&M University. “You’d be in a meeting, and someone would say, ‘What prayer element can we use for this?’ And then we’d brainstorm. Things were really thought-out and prayed about.
Sam Smith, Minister of Student Discipleship, snaps a selfie with interns Bailee Flake, Sarah Hill and Alex Jones (front row), Anthony Vargas and Carson Conway (second row), and Carley Taylor and Victoria Miller (top row).
“For the people in the Student Ministry, it’s not a job,” Carson said. “It’s who they are.”
Now, with their internships over, the interns said packing for a return to college would be bittersweet. And they’re walking away changed by their experiences.
“I’ll leave here being more of a people person so I can talk with the shy kids about their faith,” said Bailee Flake, a graduate of McKinney Boyd High School and a student at Baylor University.
The days could be long and often intense, they said, but there is joy in the work, in reaching those just slightly younger than themselves with God’s Word.
“I gained a huge appreciation for the ministers and the staff,” said Victoria Miller, a graduate of Hebron High School now attending Northwestern State University in Louisiana. “They’re all so good about loving the kids.
“You pour a lot of yourself into these kids,” she said.
Over the course of the summer, the work and the study and the focus changed their lives, too.
“I learned a ton about myself,” Bailee said, largely because she dug deeper into Scripture than she ever had before.
Alex felt the call to ministry while he was still at PCA, and this summer only reinforced that.
“I picked up a lot of skills being in the people business this summer,” he said. “I learned all about planning an event. Now that’s something I love to do.
“But most of all I realized that being in ministry is what He wants for me.”