Helping to Fill Big Roles


Photo: Rev. Sam Halverson with a group of youth ministers gathering for YMI: Youth Ministry Institute.

By Rebecca Wallace 

The most important element of an organization is its people, and sometimes finding the right people is an organization’s biggest challenge. For some churches, there may not be a more important role than those that oversee the children and youth ministries.

Thankfully, for members of the North Georgia Conference, there is help in hiring and filling those key positions. Rev. Debby Fox and Rev. Sam Halverson, both associate directors of Connectional Ministries, regularly consult with UMCs on children’s ministry and youth ministry hires. And though the two ministries are quite different, having a focus on helping churches hire for these two important positions presents common themes.
“When educating the committee of the church or the person doing the hiring on this process, I first ask the question, ‘What do you hope the person in this position will do?’” explains Debby. “So often we get confused between growing the church and growing our children in faith.”

The same could be said for youth ministry hires. According to Sam, the people doing the hiring at churches nearly always think they are looking for a person to minister to teens.

“Instead, they should look for somebody who will guide the church to minister the teens,” he says. “It shouldn’t be just one relationship. The right youth minister needs to be able to train the congregation on how to form many relationships with these young people.”

When working with a church to hire a youth minister or director, Sam offers to first help the church recognize a healthy job description so that it is not program oriented.

“I start by asking, ‘What are the purposes of these events?’” explains Sam. “Having the answer to that question in the job description is far more critical than including the events themselves. Addressing the purpose of the program in both the job description and the interviews will enable the right candidate to surface.”

North Georgia has these two very helpful and experienced people on staff because so often the enormity of what it means to grow disciples is lost on both the person being hired and the person doing the hiring. In fact, much of Debby’s and Sam’s work is helping to make sure what a church wants and what a church needs are the same thing. These roles are much bigger than simply someone who is good with children or can relate to teens. Churches need ministers who can connect the children and youth to the larger congregation.

“It’s not like you hire the perfect person to oversee these groups and then you’re done,” adds Debby. “The director organizes and runs the program, yes, but it is the congregation that will make children feel connected with the church. To truly make Disciples of Christ, the children and youth should understand that they have a role in the church that only they can uniquely fill.”

In addition to guiding the selection process, Sam and Debby offer training and professional development for the people that have been hired in these positions as well. They also oversee conference events for youth and children ministries.

Debby and Sam are serving alongside churches across our Conference in countless ways. To connect with them, email Debby Fox at and Sam Halverson and