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Youth pastor marks 20 years with Maranatha

February 06, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

marlob@herald-mail.com

It was inevitable that after more than 20 years as youth pastor at Maranatha Brethren Church, Ron Shank would begin to see the children of some of the youths he had worked with in his earlier days.

"One of the keys to my ministry is that it isn't just to the teen but to the whole family," Shank said of the generational phenomenon he is now experiencing. "My job is to back up the work that parents are doing in the home."

That includes both the emotional and spiritual health of the teen and that can be daunting with all the pressures on young people these days.

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"After all, relationships are the platforms of their whole lives," Shank said.

In this busy world, there are often great distances between teens and their families, so Shank works on the whole picture. He stresses the worth of gathering at the family table and parents being available to talk with teens about important life decisions.

The Teen Challenge program at Maranatha boasts a core group of 35 to 40 and is open to any teen, whether a Maranatha member of not. Activities are held Sunday and Wednesday evenings.

A Hagerstown native, Shank had decided by his senior year at North Hagerstown High School that he wanted a career in the burgeoning computer field.

But then, he started to attend church at Maranatha.

"My brother Sonny and his wife asked me to come sing in a cantata," Shank said. "And then after a retreat, the Lord got a hold of me and didn't let go."

He went to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where two life-changing events took place - he cemented his plans for a Christian calling and he met his future wife, Nancy.

"We actually met the first day I was on campus," Shank said.

After about a year of friendship, they began dating.

They have been married 23 years and are the parents of Matthew and Bethany, both college students.

After college graduation and a brief stint in Maine at a Christian school, the Shanks came to Hagerstown and Ron's position at Maranatha.

"In Maine, I had worked with the Word of Life clubs and youth ministry at our church there," Shank said, explaining how the youth pastor slot in Hagerstown was perfect.

Shank, 46, was honored for his two decades of service Jan. 29 at the church off Jefferson Boulevard in Hagerstown.

"There was a huge celebration during the Sunday school hour, which included a video they had put together of my years at the church," Shank said.

During worship, the teens presented special music while Shank spoke on the topic, "I Press On."

"Even though I have attained this goal, I'm still reaching forward to Christ-likeness," Shank said of his topic. "It's my challenge."

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