Jon Bates is a 2016 Augsburg University graduate with a BA in Youth and Family Ministry. He is currently working as the Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville, MN.
Growing up my family went to a Presbyterian church on Sunday mornings, we ate lumpia and pancit at Thanksgiving, and we sang karaoke when we had guests over. So I always knew that having a Filipino mother made me a little bit different compared to my peers. But honestly, I sometimes wonder what actually made me different. Was it being Filipino? Was it my height? Was it having a call to ministry? Or was it something else? I decided to push those questions to the side and I began college with plans to become a math teacher.
It wasn’t until my second year of college when a friend asked me to join them for a campus tour at Augsburg University. I was expecting a t-shirt. I ended up having my life plan upended. In fact, it was during that campus tour that I explored a vibrant neighborhood of Minneapolis for the first time. I fell in love with the campus. Pursuing ministry made more sense. It was then that I found a new home.
I transferred to Augsburg for the Youth and Family Ministry as a third-year college student. Through my time at Augsburg, I learned how much I actually did not know about the Bible, I understood how important it is to incorporate diverse voices in the Church, and I gained a stronger awareness of the significance and harms of the Christian Church when I studied abroad in El Salvador. All in all, it was through my experience at Augsburg that I learned more about myself, I leaned into my leadership skills, my faith deepened, and I owned my story more. It was also through Augsburg, that I learned that my gifts are affirmed, my voice carries weight, and that ultimately I have a home in youth ministry.
“…it was through my experience at Augsburg that I learned more about myself, I leaned into my leadership skills, my faith deepened, and I owned my story more.”
I would have never thought that I would have been working in a Lutheran church mere minutes away from my childhood home. As a queer and mixed Filipino-American youth ministry leader in the ELCA, it can sometimes feel daunting to have a leadership role at times. But like Augsburg made me remember, there is always a place for me. It is my hope, that I can extend that invitation to the young people of the church today. An invitation that welcomes their whole bodies, their questions, and their differences.
If you know a student who is discerning a call to ministry, please invite them to check out the ministry degree opportunities at Augsburg University: Theology & Public Leadership undergraduate degree or the Public Church Scholars 5 year BA/MDiv degree pathway.