Bryce Roskens (youth pastor at Steamboat Rock Baptist Church) recently sat down with Jillian Simon, a high school senior interning with him this semester. They discuss life as a high school student, what has been helpful for her in the church, and her perspective on faith and youth ministry.
Bryce Roskens: Tell us a little about yourself.
Jillian Simon: My name is Jillian Simon. I am a senior at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Iowa. In school I participate in soccer, dance team, large group and individual speech, our spring play, as well as many other clubs. My family has been attending Steamboat Rock Baptist Church for as long as I remember. I am involved in different ministries there, as well as some in my school.
BR: What are some fun things about high school?
JS: I love all of the activities I am involved in and that I have access to so much. I love the relationships I am able to build while being in high school. I once heard that high school is the biggest mission field because seldom will you be in contact with that many people on a daily basis after graduation. I love the idea of being able to have that large of an impact on my peers while being able to do things that all of us enjoy. My high school is just really awesome because of the community we build. We have so much school spirit, and I love being a part of something like that.
BR: What are some of the challenges that high school students face that other adults might not know?
JS: We are trying to cram every possible thing we can do into 24 hours. That being said, it leaves a lot of high schoolers stressed beyond measure and filled with anxiety. It’s difficult when we are told we need to be involved, but we are trying to give our all to everything we are committed to. It leaves us stretched very thin, and I don’t think that adults understand that all the time. That can be very taxing on students’ mental health, but another contributor to poor mental health is comparison. Students will look at others and wish they were them. They wish they had a certain personality or body type or matched the perfect beauty standard. The older I get, the more I realize that society’s beauty standard is everything that we aren’t. People with curly hair want straight hair, and people with straight hair want curly hair. If you’re short, you wish to be taller, and if you are tall, you wish you were short. There are so many other examples, but the way that students view themselves is so degrading towards themselves and leave them feeling like they aren’t good enough in many cases.
BR: What are some things that have been helpful for you in your faith as you have been active in a local church and youth ministry?
JS: I think the main thing is being active. The Bible calls us to community, and being involved in my church and youth ministries have been such a blessing. I know that there is always a place I can turn when I need help, no matter what that looks like. Being active in church causes accountability and strong friendships that are rooted in the Word. Also, having strong, Christian adults that can speak into my life is one of the biggest blessings I could have ever received.
BR: What role has serving others played in your faith development over the years?
JS: I have been blessed to be able to go on many mission trips, which those always remind me of the need in my own community, and more than anything that we are to serve like we are serving God, not man. If we are doing this, we should be serving to the best of our ability. Also, it’s important to be willing to do the little things or the things we don’t feel comfortable doing. When we are outside of our comfort zones is when we see the most growth. We are to serve as Jesus did.
BR: You’ve had many adults speak into your life over the years, what kind of impact has mentoring played in helping you follow Jesus further?
JS: My mentor has become like another mother to me. She is an amazing woman of the faith, and she has shown me what a great example of a mother and wife looks like. Being able to have an adult I know I can count on that isn’t necessarily one of my parents has been such a blessing. Having her guide me in my faith has helped me grow so much. I highly suggest pursing mentorship.
BR: If you could share an encouraging word to youth workers currently working with students throughout the NAB, what would you say?
JS: You are impacting so many lives. Even if you don’t always hear it directly or see the fruit right away, you are changing lives. There are so many students that do not receive healthy love, so having a place where they know they can come and just be loved well can completely change the course of their lives. Jesus’s love is so unconditional and so unlike anything we will experience in this world. Thank you for taking the time to invest in the future of the church and show us the love of Jesus. Keep fighting the good fight. You are making a difference.