Where are they now? - Ed Sowden
Ed has always had a passion for youth ministry. He believes this passion came from his own experience as “I was able to see God do some really exciting things in youth ministry when I was growing up”.
He became a Christian when he was a teenager attending the Barneys youth group at Broadway. Then, as a student leader of a Bible study at Fort Street High School, he saw the group grow from 10 kids meeting in a classroom, to 50 kids in the school gym.
Ed believes that youth ministry is a “privilege and a joy” because young people are “asking all the big questions and open and willing to change”. Because the majority of Christians make the decision before the age of 20, Ed reckons: “that’s where the action is!”
Ed met his now wife Jess when they were 16 and they dated long distance for three-and-a-half years as she lived in Dubbo. He realised they needed to live near each other to work out whether they should get married, and he also wanted to do ministry. He emailed Bryson Smith at Dubbo Presbyterian, and said: “if I move to Dubbo will you train me?... And he courageously said yes.”
While he was there, Ed realised that he loved living in the country. “It is much more of a shared life because of the smaller community. You see people all the time, and they live life at a slower pace.” He loves the fact that there is time to talk about your life and what matters to you. If you go to the shops, you have to factor in an extra five to 10 minutes for the people you will bump in to. But, it’s easier to talk about Jesus because of that relational context of sharing your life.”
After three years in Dubbo, Ed came to Youthworks College to study, looking for specialised training where he could put “theory into practice… study, but also serve in a local church”. He studied the Psalms in lectures, then on Fridays was teaching it in youth group and “really loved that dynamic.”
After College, Ed was a youth minister and scripture teacher at St Marks, West Wollongong. Ed and Jess were not actively looking for new position, but they were looking for somewhere they could be long term as “we didn’t want to keep bouncing”. Bryson then rang Ed, telling him that he had moved to Bathurst and they were looking for a youth minister at his new church.
Ed caught a vision for Bathurst, as there are lots of opportunities among young people in one of the fastest growing towns in NSW. There is a university and four high schools, so there are many young people, but Ed is currently the only paid youth minister.
One of his fears was that he would feel isolated as the only Scripture teacher at the high schools but there were a number of Christian teachers in the schools that have been a real encouragement. “If I come back from a difficult class, I know they are my cheer squad, they are a provision from God.”
Ed works three days a week in schools and two days at church. The biggest challenge has been how to prioritise time at church as there are so many things that he would like to do. But he has discovered he has to do “slow burn … I pick one thing at a time, a key focus each term”. He has chosen things like training leaders, a big picture vision, a five year teaching plan, youth reading the bible at home and helping parents disciple kids at home.
He has also been thinking about youth ministry in his region. In Wollongong, there was a strong network of ministers that helped each other. In Bathurst, Ed would like to encourage a similar network and join up with those doing youth ministry in Dubbo and Orange. He would love to contribute to the wider training of leaders.
Pray for Ed
Pray that he will know the power and love of God and riches of his grace and that this will flow into his identity and actions.
Pray for wisdom in leadership and in making decisions particularly in prioritising time at church well.
Pray for the 150 boarders in the local high school that they might feel loved by the church and come to belong to the community of God.