My name is Lauren Petroelje, and I found strong Biblically-based ministry training at the Christian Leaders Institute and CLI’s Leadership Excellence School (Learn more about online Bible classes, Click Here). I have been a resident of Holland, Michigan, the USA, for my whole life. I am 22 years old and the youngest child in my family. My parents raised my siblings and me in the Christian Reformed Church, so I have been blessed to have a relationship with the Lord for my entire life. I was baptized as an infant, and when I was a sophomore in high school, I made my public Profession of Faith at my home church.
I attended Holland Christian schools for my education (which inspired me to want strong Biblically-based ministry training at CLI). I am grateful for my parents’ sacrifices to send me to a Christian school. Also, I am thankful for the incredible Christian education I received there. Many teachers there were both educators and mentors to me. They were so intentional about walking alongside me in my walk with the Lord. I graduated from Holland Christian High School in 2017.
Two days after I graduated, I hopped on a plane with many of my classmates and flew halfway across the world to Israel. There, I went on a two-week study tour with Ray VanderLaan. It was absolutely incredible, seeing the geography of the Bible come to life right in front of me. From hiking through 12 miles of barren desert to walking through downtown Jerusalem, God changed my life on this trip.
Testing the Waters
Worship has always been a significant part of my life. Music is something that I have a deep passion for. After being told many times in high school that I was good at it, I wanted to go to college for a degree in music and religion. I felt that would get me my “dream job” of being a worship pastor. However, when I got to college, I realized that the only reason I was pursuing this degree was that other people told me I’m good at it. While I loved leading worship, I had a tough time finding the passion for making it my career.
By the end of my first year at Hope, I felt more lost and confused about my calling in life than when I started college. I struggled with classes, had very few friends, and felt emotionally overwhelmed and unmotivated to keep trying. After many tears and angry prayers with God, I decided to drop out of college. I would take time to discern the Lord’s calling on my life. I moved back home with my parents in May of 2018 and tried to create a new normal for me.
Inspiration and Growth
The summer before my senior year of high school, I went to Colorado on a spiritual formation trip with my best friend’s youth group. She attended Providence Christian Reformed Church, where many other students from my high school attended. It was an incredible experience in my favorite place in the country. Fast forward to February of 2018, when I received a phone call from one of the youth group leaders I connected with on that first trip. This leader asked if I would be willing to go again, this time as a leader.
At first, it felt a little weird, being only one year older than the seniors on the trip. However, I had an incredible time again out in the Rocky Mountains, experiencing God’s majesty and power. I was reminded of just how BIG my God is and how small my problems at the time were. Learning to rely on God and His plan for my life, I gave my plans up to Him.
After the trip, the Youth Director asked if I wanted to be a youth group leader in the coming school year. I accepted. Over the course of the next twelve months, I developed a deep love and passion for mentoring and walking alongside high school students.
More of My Spiritual Journey
Growing up in the church, I knew who God was and all of the stories in the Bible. From Adam and Eve to Moses, Abraham to King David, all the way to the New Testament and the life of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and Paul’s letters to the churches of the world. I had a pretty good grasp on Jesus from the Bible. However, it wasn’t until I reached high school that I started to learn who Jesus is to me. I began to encounter Him in authentic and powerful ways, whether through worship, reading the Word, or through dance.
I spent the first twelve years being classically trained in ballet at a local dance school. However, the founders of this school were dedicated to the Lord. So, they found beautiful ways to incorporate Jesus into our training. Each year, we had two big performances. One was at Christmas time, called The Promise, telling the story of Jesus’ birth. The other was in the spring, and that one changed every couple of years. The most powerful performance for me was The Deliverer. It told the story of Jesus’ life here on earth, all the way from his birth, to his miracles, to his prayers in the garden, his death, and then his miraculous resurrection. This performance truly changed my life as I saw the story of Jesus’ life go from black and white to color through dance, Scripture, and song.
Youth Ministry Calling
Today, I am still working in the youth program at Providence. I have built such incredible relationships with the students I mentor. I even began working with the middle schoolers we have at our church. God has truly given me some incredible opportunities in my life to find my passion and calling! I’ve learned to rely on Him when it comes to my plans completely. This was not an easy lesson to learn!
In my calling to Youth Ministry, I want to mentor and raise up the next leaders of the church. During my high school years, I often longed for a mentor. Someone to pour into me, to offer me a listening ear, and to help guide me in the direction of the Word. I did not have that. Therefore, I feel a strong conviction from God that I can be that for someone. I want to be a vessel for the Kingdom. God uses all kinds of people to further His kingdom, and I know He can also use me. Although it took many years of not knowing and uncertainty, God never once abandoned me. He left me to find my own way. He continued to put people and opportunities in my life to guide me in the direction He wanted me to pursue.
We must have healthy and thriving youth programs within all churches, schools, clubs, etc. We have to pour into the younger generations and give them firm foundations while still in school. In today’s divided culture and politically charged world, our calling is to be a light in the darkness.
Strong Biblically-Based Ministry Training at CLI/CLI
My prayer is that, through CLI’s Leadership Excellence School (CLI), I can gain strong Biblically-based ministry training that will help prepare me for working in the church. I have now had 3 full years of practical, workplace experience working at Providence Christian Reformed Church. I believe that pairing my experience with high-quality ministry training will equip me to be used as a vessel to further God’s kingdom in the world of Youth Ministry. I’m not entirely sure what type of position I hope to get with my degree, whether full-time or part-time. Either way, I am excited to see how God will use me to speak to the younger generations and assist them in building firm foundations in Scripture.
Christian Leaders Institute and CLI’s Leadership Excellence School are so important for me because I am in so much debt after only one year of college. The thought of going into even more debt at any other Bible college was just too overwhelming for me as I pay my own way through college. CLI’s free training is truly one of the biggest blessings that I have ever come across. I know that I am receiving high-quality education and training without worrying about being in debt for the rest of my life. Finances can easily become a big stress issue, and I believe that CLI/CLI will help me focus on getting my degree to be used in the way God is calling me.