JOSH ALBERS AIMS MINISTRY TO CHURCH'S YOUNGEST AS NEW SONG'S PASTOR TO KIDS
The new children's pastor at La Grande's New Song Community Church is only in his mid-20s.
But he's been involved in ministry to young people for half his life.
Josh Albers, 24, said he was asked to assist in a children's Sunday school class at a church in Portland when he was 12.
"I helped in a class for 3-to-5-year-olds," Albers recalls.
Not despising Albers' youth, the adult teacher had the boy teach a lesson to the children.
That experience was a springboard in getting Albers interested in becoming a full-time minister to youth.
He graduated from Portland's Jefferson High School in 1997 and studied for two years at Portland Bible College.
He was mentored in youth ministry at New Song Community Church near the Lloyd Center shopping mall in northeast Portland.
Albers was assistant to the children's pastor at the church for two years and recently completed a year as junior-high pastor. Albers learned about the children's minister position at New Song in La Grande through its pastor, Duane Smiley. Albers got to know him when Smiley was serving as an elder at the Portland church.
Albers said he is impressed with Pastor Smiley's commitment to the 50 children who attend the church at 3008 Cove Ave.
"His passion is for children," Albers said. "He decided the first person he would hire (for the church's ministry staff) would be a pastor to children."
Albers noted that national pollster George Barna, who was featured in an Observer article Aug. 30, concluded that many churches are ineffective in their ministries to young children.
"We don't tend to take them very seriously," Barna said.
Albers said children are very capable and he agrees they should be taken seriously.
"Kids are smart. They can learn a lot and do a lot," the new children's pastor said.
"Someone has said, Â‘The biggest sin in children's ministry is we expect too little out of the kids."
At New Song, Albers is involved with children on Sunday mornings.
He oversees the nursery and all the classes for children from infants through sixth-graders.
He teaches in the Kids Church, which meets during the adults' regular worship hour at 9 a.m. Kids Church features puppets, stories, skits and worship.
Albers will also be heavily involved in Kids Place, a midweek program for children that starts Oct. 1.
Kids Place, Wednesdays at 7 p.m., includes Bible teaching, crafts and games.
Albers said in three months he hopes to start a bus ministry to provide transportation for La Grande-area children to attend church on Sundays.
He also is looking forward to a church-sponsored event planned for Halloween night.
Albers' goal is to attract at least 150 children to what will be called a Hallelujah Party at the church.
"It will be set up to look like a carnival," Albers said. A gospel presentation will be made sometime during the 6 to 9 p.m. event.
"The goal will be for kids to get as much candy as they would get trick-or-treating that night."
He emphasized that children and adults can come and go throughout the evening.
The Hallelujah Party will be patterned after a similar event held at the New Song church in Portland. Last year's party drew 500 children.
Albers comes from a family with three children. An older brother, Brandon, is 25. Their younger sister, Breanna, is 14.
Albers has had a ministry model within his home for several years. His father, Jim, is a jail chaplain in Washington County.
His mother, Linda, is a home-maker.
Â— Story by Dave Stave