Young adults shepherding Good Shepherd's youth

August 10, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

While pursuing other careers, both Robin Graves and Jeff Casto realized their lives needed a change in direction which led them to join the ministry staff of The Good Shepherd Ministries.

Graves grew up in Hagerstown and graduated with a bachelor of education degree from Frostburg University.

She went into teaching, most recently in Santo Tomas, El Salvador, where she taught English in a school affiliated with a church home for orphans.

"But it seems God was leading me in a different direction," said Graves, who had also spent time as a department manager at a bank in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Graves, 33, is now children's pastor at the church at 19763 Longmeadow Road north of Hagerstown. She works with the congregation's children up to about age 11 or 12, coordinates Christian education which includes Pioneer Club and Super Church held each Sunday at the same time as adult worship.


Jeff Casto, a West Virginia native who was a U.S. Navy medic for four years, said he also was getting messages that he needed to pick another path.

Youth pastor duties now fall to Casto, who works with young people from sixth grade to college age.

"With no ministry education, I got an appointment to a youth ministry at a church in West Virginia," Casto said. "It was such an obvious 'God' thing, there was no question I had chosen the right road."

Already a licensed practical nurse, Casto was in college studying biology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where he switched majors and is finishing up his degree in religion.

"I was in my senior year when I interviewed at The Good Shepherd Ministries," he said.

Both Casto and Graves began their work at the church in February. "This shows what emphasis this church has on young people," Graves said, noting there was just one youth pastor before they came.

One of Graves' main responsibilities is to train and equip the teachers at the church. "I can't be everywhere for both Sunday school and youth ministry," she said.

The daughter of Ronald Graves and Marilyn Toms, Graves grew up in the congregation at Bethel Assembly of God in Hagerstown.

Casto is 32, married and the father of four children.

Though their backgrounds are quite different, Casto and Graves say they work well together in a complementary way.

In his youth ministry, Casto is also dedicated to training youth leaders and adult volunteers - something he has done for years at other churches.

"I can't imagine a better group of people," he said. "There is a long history of involvement here at The Good Shepherd."

Developing this core group is like making disciples, Casto said. "We want to grow them deep and they have responded incredibly to that as real."

Working with young people also means speaking their language and both Graves and Casto are ready to do that whether it be with words or with music and drama.

The young people meet on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and attendance is usually around 35. First there is thanksgiving, then praise and worship which Casto said is God's response - returning the youths' affection.

Casto and Graves are holding their first outreach event for all young people on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church.

Shepherd's Fest Kids Bash will feature a petting zoo, crafts, moon bounces, games, a dunking booth and food, all for a $1 admission fee.

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