At a time when some college graduates struggle to find work in their fields of study, Jessyka Albert earned a position as one of four pastors in a church that regularly serves up to 250 members each Sabbath—a position she was offered five months before she graduated.

“I didn’t have to worry about job hunting. I knew where I was going to be.”
—Jessyka Albert

The offer to be discipleship pastor is a testament to her passion for ministry, her natural leadership skills and her love for young adults, with whom she now works closely in Bible studies, small groups, and social events. Her story also highlightsto the new program at Union College that allowed for those positive qualities to be recognized and refined.

Practical experience

The first of its kind among Adventist colleges in North America, the semester-long pastoral practicum at Union College allows theology students to gain practical pastoral experience in a church while maintaining the structure and security of a classroom. Under close supervision from Union faculty and a mentoring pastor, third and fourth year theology students experience the rigors of pastoral duty, including sermons, Bible studies, small groups, board meetings, hospital visits and social events.

“It’s an opportunity for the student to pick up some real life ministry experience and to be mentored by a pastor. It allows students to really get their feet wet.”
—Craig Carr, ministerial director for the Rocky Mountain Conference

For Albert, her practicum at Boulder, Colorado last summer was more than a chance to get her feet wet. As the young adult pastor for those five months, she had to dive in headfirst. Her responsibilities included rebuilding the flagging youth program, developing a leadership team of young adults, coordinating potlucks every week, and planning frequent hiking and camping trips. By her final week, regular attendance had grown from seven young adults to more than 20.

“It was so incredible to watch young adults get excited about church,” Albert said.

The church and conference leaders were just as excited. Before she left to finish her final semester at Union, they offered her the position of discipleship pastor. Because they wanted her to return after she graduated from Union in the spring, Boulder Adventist Church, in accordance with conference policy, assumed responsibility of one-third of her salary and all of her benefits.

Mentorship and growth

The remaining five months of classroom curriculum were demanding, but Albert had peace of mind in the knowledge that she would be employed immediately after graduation. Like many students before her, Albert worked one-on-one with several professors to ensure she was competent and confident, in ways often not possible at larger schools.

“Having mentors in my life is very important in keeping myself grounded,” she said. “I had never had an advisor like Dr. Ben Holdsworth. We met every week during my last semester.”

Albert continues to seek growth from her mentors—now colleagues—at her church in Boulder. “I am treated 100 percent as an equal here, but I have so many questions to ask,” she said. “It’s important to have people I can be honest with. Having mentors here like that has been an incredible gift in my life.”
But the growth of the church is most important to Albert. “There is a lot of room for our church to grow,” she said. “I feel this is something I can do for a really long time.”

–Michael Rohm graduated from Union College and works as a freelance writer from his home in Oregon.