If an adult had approached a teenage Darwin Glassford and predicted that he would be professor of church education at Calvin Theological Seminary, Glassford would have laughed outright.
Who would expect this path for a high school student who was more concerned with waterskiing than schoolwork and whose family rarely attended church?
But regardless of Glassford’s teenage vision of his future, the roads that led him to CTS were faithful and fruitful. During his teen years, they led him from interacting with Youth for Christ into a life with Christ. Later, they led from junior college to “get out of the house” into seminary and graduate school. They led to diverse opportunities to practice and teach principles of youth ministry, both in the United States and in Kenya. And, most recently, they led to Grand Rapids, Mich.
Before joining the faculty of CTS, Glassford taught Bible and Youth Ministry at Montreat College, a small four-year Christian liberal arts college in Asheville, N.C., where he also served as assistant academic dean and the chair of his department.
After more than a decade at Montreat, Glassford began teaching a summer “Youth and Culture” class at CTS. During his third summer he was asked to consider joining the seminary faculty. The possibility intrigued him.
“I’m not one to close doors too early,” he says. He and his wife, Janet, decided to “go down the path” and see where it would lead. Little by little, it led them toward CTS, and in the summer of 2005 they moved their family to Grand Rapids, Mich.
Glassford says that churches have a covenantal responsibility to embrace youth into the broader life of the congregation—something that is a struggle for many churches. And he believes that a critical component of youth ministry is ministering to the people most directly involved in students’ lives: their parents.
“Most adults are as inarticulate about their faith as high school students,” Glassford says, “so the conversations that should be taking place at home aren’t.”
Of course, the presence of other adults in the lives of young teens is also important. “A lot of middle school kids don’t have adult advocates. Nowhere else do they get this but in the church,” Glassford says.
One day, perhaps, other teens will look back on their lives and reflect that, like Glassford, their first real introduction to Christ came through someone who met them along the long, winding road of adolescence. And, in retrospect, it will all make sense.