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Video: Pastor leads ‘herds’ to discover faith

Alexa Jenner

A family friend told Andy Jack in middle school that one day he was going to make a good pastor.

The fact someone saw this quality in him at such a young age always stayed with him. As the middle school pastor at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Jack tries to instill the same confidence in today’s youth, helping them see their potential.

“My personality gravitated toward middle schoolers because it’s such an under-served population in churches, but it is the second biggest developmental stage,” Jack said. “It’s a really cool niche to be in, and I love being an advocate for them.”

Jack has been a middle school pastor for 10 years, the last three of which have been with Christ Church. With the Cloud of Witnesses group, attracting youths from 12 different middle schools, Jack said he depends on his volunteers to be the hands and feet of the ministry. The large group of students is broken into “herds” of about 15, and the volunteers serve as guides for each herd.

Every other Sunday, the Student Leadership Team comprised of 15 students meet to discuss goals for the ministry and plan group events. Jack said the team is so motivated to take ownership of their faith that they are begging him to meet more.

Jack coordinates a summer camp in Wisconsin giving the children a chance to introduce their friends to Christianity and build their relationships. A weeklong mission project gives the students the opportunity to serve others.

This year the students have been ecstatic about their service projects. At the end of January, they will be working at a homeless shelter in Clarendon Hills before taking on world hunger in February. For the first time, COW will participate in the 30-hour famine put on by World Vision Friday through Sunday, Feb. 22-24. The kids will work at a food pantry in the area as they fast for 30 hours to get a glimpse of what it is like to go hungry. Each will have sponsors for the weekend to raise money for hunger, and the goal is to have every student raise enough money to feed a child for an entire year.

Jack said it is hard to watch the students leave after eighth grade, but he is seeing his work pay off. Wheaton College junior Hillary Johnson had Jack as a pastor and has returned to work as a volunteer.

“What impresses me most is the way he’s able to make a lot of really complicated issues applicable and accessible to junior-highers,” Johnson said. “He really connects with the kids.”

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