Meet Amy Warner. Amy is the youth pastor at Erskine Church of the Nazarene and the District Nazarene Youth International (NYI) president for the British Isles North District, and if you’ve ever wondered whether your investment in a young person is worth it, keep reading.
Amy grew up in the Erskine Church, but as a teenager she felt like there weren't too many other girls in the church, and it would have been easy to wander away. In a church with few female leaders, it would have been understandable for then youth pastor Alan Baird to feel like maybe there wasn’t much he could do.
“There really weren't female mentors in the church,” says Amy, “and that probably would have been a block for a lot of girls who might have been interested in serving, without female leaders to show them how to lead as a female.”
“Over the years [Amy] has attended many events and programmes, but it was through serving others that she discovered what it meant to be a follower of Jesus,” said Baird.
Wth her pastor’s encouragement, when Amy was just 17 she began her ministry career as a youth intern at her church.
“(Alan) taught me everything he knew,” she says.
She wasn’t really interested in a ministry career at first, but that relationship stayed with her.
“As I left school and thought about what I wanted to do in my life, I realised the investment he had in me, and everything he helped me to understand. I wanted to do that for people.”
Amy wanted to be a mentor for her friends and others because she knew firsthand the value of having an older person who cared for her beyond her family.
“(Alan) helped me to understand how I could do that.”
Amy realised her call into leadership didn’t come in isolation; the church had to accept and encourage her while she searched for her calling.
“If I hadn’t been a part of this local church, I wouldn’t have entered ministry, and I don’t even know if I would still be a Christian. Alan and Pastor Derrick really believed in me and helped me to figure out my place in the story of God. From there, the church were really willing to be creative in thinking about what my role could look like."
Becoming the youth pastor at Erskine Church means she is also stepping into the church’s role in the community. In the local secondary school, she is continuing work which was started by her mentor Alan Baird, and she has seen that partnership flourish.
“Alan’s work (in the high school) for all those years has made it possible for me to go in to the school and speak in classrooms about Jesus.”
Having spent six years working in youth ministry at the age of just 23, Amy says that she has learned in her ministry that “God’s presence is a very long-term thing.”
Recently, Amy’s passion for justice has moved her to start looking at ways the church can be a force for good in the wider world. Diego Lopez, leader for Nazarene youth on the Eurasia Region, said, “I believe that Amy has a compelling passion for social justice. (She) has been able to inspire many in NYI (Nazarene Youth International) and in the wider church… to think deeper about our actions, and how we contribute into a more fair world.”
Amy is living that out through her work on her district, as well as her work for justthreads.org. Just Threads is a clothing company with a three-fold approach to their support of social justice efforts: selling only fair trade products; using design to promote awareness; and sharing the profits with existing charities.
“I want to connect people to use their gifts for justice,” she says.
Amy is an example of how God uses the passions of God’s people to build the kingdom on earth, and a reminder that our investment in young people is essential mortar in the building process.