By Chloe Bachman
Rochester University has many graduates who now work in various churches or ministries in the Metro Detroit area. These graduates, many of them from RU’s Department of Theology and Ministry, hope to make a positive impact in their communities. Shield Media reached out
to some of them to hear their stories.
Ashlee Holland graduated in April 2018, earning her degree in biology with a youth and family ministry minor. Holland currently is a worship arts director and mentor of student ministry at Kensington Community Church. Holland has served in churches as a worship leader throughout much of her young life. Before becoming part of Kensington’s student ministries in October, she helped with Kensington’s young adult group 18/29.
“If you consistently feel a tugging at your heart to pursue ministry, go for it,” Holland said. “Don’t think about the money or time it will take. If it is a part of God’s plan for your life, he will light the path for you and give you peace of mind about it. I planned on being in medical school right after college. Never did I think I would end up in full-time ministry, but I absolutely love it. I wasn’t able to fully experience the joy of it all till I fully allowed all of me to try it!”
Riley Chowning earned his degree in youth and family ministry in December 2008. Chowning started his career at Hope Community Church in Detroit in 2007. He officially was employed as the part-time youth pastor for Hope Community in 2014, and he now serves as a youth pastor for junior high and high school teens. Chowning also works part-time at Hope House Detroit, a non-profit community organization for kids located near Hope Community Church.
Chowning said he, like many other pastors, faces a specific challenge because he works in ministry. “When you are on the front lines trying to love people like Jesus, the enemy pays more attention to you. Whether that’s through your relationship with your spouse, things in your family or personal life, he wants to trip you up. That’s why allowing yourself to receive the love of Jesus on the daily is so crucial. He is your strength.”
James Chambers earned a degree in biblical studies in 2015. Chambers is an associate pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He also has a YouTube channel called PreacherJimC, runs “The New Christian” podcast, and writes a blog. He has assisted with a commentary of 1st and 2nd Chronicles, helped write “Student’s Guidebook to the Study of Genesis,” and “A New Perspective on Church History.”
Chambers said RU helped prepare him for his career in ministry and was a launchpad for him. Chambers’s piece of advice for students is, “Not to give up, and never let anything stand in God’s way of achieving His goal for you.”
Hannah Sanders graduated from RU in spring 2017 earning her degree in urban ministry. Sanders is the empowerment center director for Beauty for Ashes, a non-profit organization in Flint that helps victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Sanders has about eight years of ministry experience with two years with Beauty for Ashes. Sanders has been involved in ministry since high school, working at Michigan Christian Youth Camp and with her church’s youth group.
Sanders said, “I love when one of the women we have been working with finally decides to take a step toward healing, whether that is going to rehab, going to church, or looking for better housing options. Seeing the growth of light in them is what makes it all worth it.”
Cole McClure earned a bachelor’s in biblical studies in 2014 and a master’s in religious education from RU in 2019. McClure currently works at Valley Church of Christ in Burton, Michigan. He also is an educator at Oakland Christian School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. McClure has worked in ministry for six years.
McClure said RU provided him with connections in the community, opportunities for real leadership roles, mentorship and gaining a great education. He said some of the biggest challenges ministers face are “complacency, accountability and loneliness.” He noted that the “Urge to be relevant and the need for validation are challenges for pastors. Also, because ministry is a ‘career,’ you can face tension between that and your congregation’s view of religion.”