Empowering other leaders will be the focus of Bendigo Baptist Church’s new Youth Ministry Worker, and lifelong church member, Jacqui Naunton. BUV sat down with Jacqui last month at one of Bendigo best cafes, The Anxious Goat, to share in her enthusiasm for young people, leadership, and empowering others.
From early on in her life, Jacqui has taken on leadership roles: “I started out as a youth leader when I was still a young person myself.” In fact, Jacqui Naunton’s journey to paid ministry is a testament to Bendigo Baptist’s commitment to young people through the years. Not only was she effectively mentored into leadership at a young age, but the young women she mentored through their teens are now leaders in the youth ministry that she heads up. Her drive to create and inspire also expresses itself through her graphic design business, White Deer.
Jacqui moves into her role at a time of many challenges for Christianity, and questions about the shape church-based youth ministry should take. Jacqui says, “I think one of the main challenges, even with our mainly Christian young people, is to be wise about what lines to draw between Christian faith, and the voices in the world. And even though I’m not that old, the world has changed drastically for young people since I was young. I really need to learn from them about their experience of faith in the world.”
Another challenge is that of being a younger leader, and female: “All of the pastors at the church are male, and though they are a great team, I do sometimes wonder ‘Why should they listen to me?’ On the other hand, in comparison to the youth leaders, I feel like an ‘older leader’ with a lot more confidence that I used to have.”
However, despite those challenges, Jacqui thinks that Bendigo Baptist’s youth ministry has a secret weapon. She speaks enthusiastically of their committed leadership team: “We have a large number of volunteer youth leaders, some of whom have been around for 5 years or more. That is an awesome resource.” She sees her role as inspiring, supporting and equipping those leaders to do their work well, rather than doing it all herself. And that empowering mentality applies to the church’s young people as well: “I see my role as helping young people to be witnesses to their friends through teaching them to be vulnerable and honest about their faith.”