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The Youth Ministries major at North Central University, Minneapolis, MN has been training youth pastors since 1985. As part of the Pastoral Ministries Department, it was one of the first undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation to target church youth workers. Since 1996 Dr. Tracy Paino has directed the academic programs as Professor of Youth Studies and as the Student Ministries Department Chair. Because of the growth of the Children, Family, and Youth ministry programs, the Student Ministries Department was formed in 2005. Now Dr. Paino serves NCU as the Executive Chair of the Departments of Church Leadership supervising both the Pastoral Ministries and Student Ministries departments. He has over 28 years of experience working with students. Nate Ruch, Executive Director of University Relations at NCU, brings over 15 years of pastoral experience to the youth ministry classes he teaches. Together they founded The Center for Youth and Leadership, an idea that they envisioned to prepare, serve, and connect emerging and existing leaders to make a difference in the lives of youth.
In the fall of 2004 NCU dedicated The Center for Youth and Leadership. The concept was the result of several streams of need and vision expressed by several stakeholders at North Central. Dr. Paino and Nate designed and proposed The Center for Youth and Leadership as a new way to bring the worlds of adolescence and adult leaders together. It is also a place for a convergence of ideas, models, and resources in youth work. The Center is where faith and action can join together to make a difference. The Center logo represents the place where links in a chain come together to form a strong support for one another.
The Youth Development Studies major has been in existence since 2002. It is designed to train those who do not feel called to be pastors but wanted to work with youth in community settings rather than those in the church. Graduates of this program are prepared to work with teenagers in para-church, educational, social service, and community organizations. The school presently has approximately 200 students in the youth ministries and youth development studies programs.
The fall semester of 2006 brought two experienced faculty members to NCU with strong youth ministry credentials. Brian Pingel has served as a youth pastor and associate pastor for 16 years. He brings his passion for student development and family ministry into the classroom and is the current director for The Center for Youth and Leadership. Moses Mendoza is the District Youth Director for the Midwest Latin District of the Assemblies of God and adds his 16 years of church ministry to the team. Together these two youth ministry experts add their energy, experience, and perspective to the youth programs.
The existing academic programs are a vital part of the mission of the Center. The University has remodeled and provided a building that houses the faculty offices, a conference room, a technologically-updated classroom, a coffee house/non-traditional learning environment, media lab, and administrative assistant space. It is a place where students can attend class, hangout, and connect with existing youth leaders. Our facility is a place for current youth pastors and youth leaders to come, learn, hang-out, and connect with those who share their passion.
Youth ministry and youth development students are actively involved in local ministries and youth service organizations. These organizations serve as great resources for our students in the formation of their professional skills and experience. There is a need for collaborative development of future leaders in youth work. The programs and facilities of The Center for Youth and Leadership at North Central University are designed to help those who want to make a difference in the lives of youth.