November 2022
Young Leaders in Ministry

A Young Leader’s Mission

This article is also available in Spanish here. Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.

I came to the Episcopal Church almost twenty years ago, and when I was twenty, I began taking on leadership as the assistant to the Diocesan Youth Commission Coordinator. With the help of God, and several exemplary people, I continued to learn and grow and ultimately became the coordinator of that commission.

Among the challenges I encountered during these years, I can highlight adult-centrism, the view that only adults are experts. Older people often doubt younger people due to their “lack of experience.” I've also come across adults who want to be participants in youth activities, but fail to recognize that they no longer belong to that age group. That is why many young people feel uncomfortable attending those events.

On the other hand, there is the economic factor. Sometimes you want to plan activities, but cannot because of the lack of budget. This year, however, we managed to be awarded a diocesan youth fund that helped us reach some goals.

Trained and sustained by role models

Part of what inspires me to keep going is seeing the ways God is responding to my prayers and putting excellent people in my way. I have encountered people who have been both stumbling blocks and role models.

I am one of those people who thinks that everything that happens, whether good or bad, is a life-teaching to help me continue to grow and remain in the path that God has traced for me. Of course, there are people who have helped me, inspired me and above all, loved and blessed me. For example, my grandparents. Together, we built a mission in Alajuela, Costa Rica, that is focused on the love of animals. The mission began because my grandfather had adopted and cared for street dogs that were sick. That mission grew to care for twenty-four dogs!

My grandfather had a bus, and when we started the mission, he would pick people up from their homes, take them to mass and bring them back to their homes. Unfortunately, my grandfather died, but I had promised him that I was going to continue the work of the church, hand-in-hand with my grandmother. It has not been easy, but I have continued working hard and have kept my promise.

Other people who have been a blessing and an example to me are the Rev. Mirza Ramírez, Víctor and others from the Panama team. Esdrás and the Rev. Salanic from Guatemala have also helped me. All these people helped my youth leadership training by showing me their work and guiding me.

Another important person in my ministry has been Marcia Quintanilla. A woman completely committed to youth, she has taught me how to structure activities and delegate functions. My mother, the Rev. Kattia Corella, has also helped me. She is a bivocational pastor who has shown me that you can work 24/7 and achieve great things if you put your mind to it.

I have surrounded myself mostly with strong women as I grow as a leader. We are part of a church where women have the right to work and be heard and that is something that fulfills and motivates me a lot. We will always have to struggle for the social development of humanity, but it is not impossible to achieve good results.

Youth leader development

If there is to be more youth leadership, the heads of the church must support young leaders. When there are negative people in leadership, young people quickly become discouraged. They are in a complex stage of life, and even more so in these times. They need more pastoral support. But support doesn’t mean doing all the work for them. It means advising and directing, not commanding.

We must change the fact that most youth teams in congregations or at the diocesan level include two or three young people, while the rest are adults, three, four or even more decades older. I'm not saying that’s bad. It’s always good to have people with more experience to learn from, but it's also not good for a whole commission to be made up of older people and only one or two young people. Representation matters.

What happens when there are very few young representatives in teams? Young people don’t feel that they can express themselves freely. Sometimes they feel uncomfortable and unheard when surrounded by older people. They need peers who understand what they may be going through. They also need adults who can direct, teach and guide them. It’s important to let them be and trust them, so that they can listen to God and the path that God has planned for them. When we are trusted, we feel motivated and confident that we can help that neighbor who may be lost.

Sunday School as a path to youth engagement in the Church

I have a project in mind that could strengthen the bonds between young people and children and the church. I don't know if it is applied in other countries, but we are not doing it in mine. The project would be to create a study plan for Sunday school that includes graduations, just as is done in the schools. As children and youth travel this Biblical path, they could discover their gifts and talents and would motivate them for the service of God. We would give them certificates, plan celebrations and graduations.

I think this program would help children and youth look forward to the weekend when they can go to Episcopal School, College or University (Sunday school). And from that experience of Sunday School, I feel that:

  • more young people can be motivated to participate in the church
  • that children will want to go on to the youth group
  • and that young people will want to go on to the adult group, and so on

It would create a powerful, lasting and motivating Christian socialization and education. We would be creating leaders from childhood who want to follow Jesus and help others.

Montserrat Calvo Corella was born in San José, Costa Rica, in 1995. She is a university student studying music education with an emphasis on the tuba. A tuba teacher at the Castella Conservatory, she is the director of the Mulier Brass Collective of Women Brass Players of Costa Rica and a tuba player for the first female brass ensemble of Costa Rica, Lilium Brass. Montserrat is the coordinator of the Diocesan Youth Commission of the Costa Rican Episcopal Church.


This article is part of the November 2022 Vestry Papers issue on Young Leaders in Ministry