“I am very thankful for my experience with the CCO during those formative college years,” says John Ryan. “I wouldn’t have called those CCO staff mentors then, but that’s what they were. I am grateful that they chose to invest in me and love me as a child of God. When I interact with youth who are difficult or who I don’t feel a lot of love for, I remember that someone took a chance on me and it reminds me that everyone is worthy of being loved and invested in.”
When John started his freshman year at Westminster College, he was looking forward to the freedom that college life represented. “When I first got there, it was my first time on my own, away from the structured guidance of my family,” he remembers. “Growing up in a small town, I could have run wild once I got to college. Who knows what would have happened had I not gotten to know upperclassmen who invited me to the fellowship group? I’m thankful that I got connected to Christians on campus as early as I did.”
Today, John serves as Director of Ministry to Youth and their Families at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. “The thing the CCO really equipped me to do well in ministry is to communicate to youth that you don’t have to be working in the church to be following God’s call. We do a church school class every year for youth about faith and vocation. We invite professional people from the congregation to come and share about how they have been able to connect living their faith out in their professions as lawyers, educators, criminal psychologists and so on. This is a great opportunity for them to see real-life models of faithful Christian living.”
John received those models as a college student, both on campus and as a participant of the Ocean City Beach Project. “I remember talking a lot about the lordship of Christ in our daily lives and how important that is. Left to our own devices, we often choose to live for ourselves, but when we understand that Jesus should be in charge and guiding your life, it’s easier to make wise and good decisions. I learned how, as a faithful person, I should I live out my life and treat other people. The fellowship was great, and it was good preparation to go back to Westminster and the real world and share what I’d learned.”
In addition to his work with youth, John is pursuing a doctorate in educational ministry from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He continues to apply the lessons that he learned in college to his own life, in addition to his work with youth.
“The CCO introduced me to the connection between the Sunday faith and everyday faith—how I treat myself and others, my work ethic, everything. Before spending time with CCO staff, I had never really done a lot of serious reflection about the lordship of Christ. Those early college days—out of your parents’ household, trying to figure things out for yourself—are very formative. I have a wider lens through which to look at life now. I know that to be a faithful Christian, it’s about choosing every day to live for God and not for myself.”