Last updated: September 21, 2023
Abraham Ruffcorn, while earning his Bachelor of Music Education at a state college, spent his Monday and Thursday nights with the United Methodist campus ministry, eventually leading worship. Through this campus ministry, he learned about the U.M. Conference’s internships. He became a summer youth ministry intern in 2016 then a camp counselor the following two summers for 5th and 6th graders, leading camps and helping with worship and events. “I just fell in love with working with young people. When they are interested in learning about Jesus, learning about Christianity, they love it.”
In the fall of 2017, he attended Exploration with his campus ministry, an event for young adults considering ordained ministry. During that time, Abraham discerned a call to be a deacon in the United Methodist church. “After that, I had to start looking at seminaries,” he says. His wife Beatrice, who he’d met while a summer youth intern, said, “Hey, why don’t you go to Asbury?” Abraham visited Asbury Seminary in the fall of 2018 and fell in love with the beautiful campus.
Choosing the Master of Christian Ministries
Abraham explains that in the United Methodist world, there are certain degrees for certain roles; though elders need an M.Div., deacons can get a different degree. Abraham chose the Master of Christian Ministries. “With the M.A., there is a little more freedom to take electives, which I liked. I would not have done a different degree. It was fun having different classes with people in different degree programs… I took any electives I wanted to take,” he says. He enjoyed his Campus Ministry course, for example, which helped prepare him for his current role.
Abraham worked in the registrar’s office while a student at Asbury Seminary, and he noticed the certificates in the course catalog. “God pointed out the Certificate in Christian Education and was like, ‘I want you to get that too.’” Through this certificate, Abraham took classes such as “Transformative Teaching,” how to really teach people about Jesus and the Bible. According to Abraham, the classes he took work well with the job he has now, as he oversees Christian education at his church.
A Discipleship Group for Life
Abraham has a lot to say about what Asbury Seminary offers in addition to its quality courses. “I’ve told people, ‘If you’re not getting spiritually formed at Asbury, you must be hiding under a rock.’ There’s just so much there that they offer.” For example, he still talks with his DNA group, which now includes some of his closest friends. “It was very raw a lot of the time. There are things I know they’ve shared with me that no one else in the world will ever know from me. And I’ve shared things with them that will never leave our group.” Secondly, Abraham was on the chapel team his last year at Asbury Seminary. Having come from a small, all-white church community, he was impressed that Chapel involved students from other countries. “I’d never seen painting done in worship before I came to Asbury. I’d never seen all these different African cultures and how they worshiped… We also had services we kept more traditional with a hymnal and an organ… If you really want to see diversity done well, you want to see people from different faith backgrounds, Asbury is the place to go.”
Ministering to Gen Z
After graduation from Asbury Seminary, Abraham started in June 2022 as the Assistant Pastor for Youth and Young Adults and presently serves as Minister for Family Life at FUMC-Carbondale.
Abraham (“Pastor Abe”), who plays the guitar and ukulele, gets worship time in with the youth using Spotify. There were only 5 youth coming when Abraham began at FUMC-Carbondale, and now 12-15 kids come per week. According to Abraham, asking questions is important for Generation Z; he stresses the need to be comfortable with their questions and be willing to say, “I don’t know,” due to their desire for authenticity. He wants the youth to be comfortable coming to his church and being part of the youth group, even if this means they come to get food. “Meet them where they’re at. I’m sure that’s a huge cliché, but I think it’s extremely true. Because you’re going to have kids coming from all different sorts of backgrounds,” says Abraham. But most of all, he wants them to know that he and his wife love them. “We need to love them and we need to be honest with them,” Abraham says. “And that’s something I definitely learned being at Asbury, that there’s a way you can love people but also be truthful with them. And being authentic with people is how ministry ought to be done. Every week, I’m like, ‘We must be doing something right because they keep coming back.’”
Abraham continues his passion for campus ministry through being on the campus ministry board at Southern Illinois University, a local university that brings some folks to his church. In addition to ministering to youth, Abraham is focused on making his church inviting to young families and kids. He has taken on Christian education at his church, providing materials for small groups and Sunday school classes.
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