Each week, Corey Knopf (Bible, ’10) opens his Bible and looks out at a crowd of teenagers sitting in chairs or walking over from the beloved carpet ball table. On the wall to his right hang four posters that say “Step Up,” “Submit,” “Commit,” “Move.” As youth pastor of the First Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio, Corey has strived to do just that—stepping up to serve in the same ministry he grew up in, now helping train teenagers to love Christ just as he was taught.
With approximately seventy to eighty teens coming to Sunday morning Bible study and the midweek youth service, Corey has the privilege to share God’s Word with the next generation of Christian leaders.
But Corey’s vision extends past the walls of the youth room; through overseeing a class called The POINT for teen bus riders, visiting bus teens and their families at home, and mentoring in two local public schools, Corey has seen his youth group grow in amazing ways. “We have teens who come on our bus because they don’t have family who come to church,” Corey said. “It is awesome to see young people come to church all on their own.”
Corey wants his teens to have a vision to reach their community as well. Through free events such as an Easter egg hunt and a youth car wash, teenagers have had the opportunity to serve the community and invite visitors to church. “While we were washing cars, we gave the people we met water bottles, cookies, wristbands, and an invitation to our church,” Corey said. “The people in the community were shocked when we told them we were not taking any money and that we just wanted them to know that there was a church in the community that cared about them. It was awesome!”
Throughout the year, the youth group also hosts mini-carnivals at apartment complexes where the teens give out snow cones, set up a bounce house, and organize games for kids. “This is always well received, and it is a great way to build relationships in our area,” Corey said.
Even youth activities such as the recent Color War or the annual Christmas party give the teenagers a chance to grow in their faith. Not only do the activities provide important fellowship for the teens and the youth group leaders, but they also open doors for the teens to meet or bring visitors, who can then hear the gospel.
During the summers, Corey takes teens either on a missions trip, to a youth conference, or to a youth camp, depending on the year. Recently, Corey and other youth leaders took a group of thirty-five teens to Bearing Precious Seed in El Paso, Texas, to help assemble John/Romans that would be distributed in Juarez, Mexico.
“God is doing some incredible work in our youth group right now,” Corey said, thinking back to this past year at youth camp, where a few of his teens accepted Christ as Savior or gained assurance of their salvation. “I just had the privilege last week of baptizing one of the young men who got saved at camp,” Corey added. “[I] never get over seeing people get saved. That is one of my absolute favorite things about ministry.”
But ministry wasn’t always what Corey wanted to do. When he graduated from high school and applied at PCC, Corey listed chemistry as his major. He planned to return to Cincinnati, Ohio, to work as a research chemist for Proctor and Gamble. It wasn’t until his sophomore year that he began sensing God’s work in his heart about full-time ministry. “This call spanned many weeks,” Corey said. “I eventually surrendered to God that I would serve in ministry with my life. I changed my major from chemistry to Bible going into my junior year of college, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that leading of God in my life.”
Corey explained that during these in-between weeks, he remembers telling some teachers about the switch. “I can remember specific conversations with them that greatly encouraged me at the time to follow God’s leading. I’m still grateful for these men who took time to invest in me as an individual person.”
Once in the Bible program, he began taking Greek and more in-depth Bible courses. “I am very thankful for my exposure to Biblical languages through the two years of Greek I took in my undergraduate program,” he said. “It has helped me so many times in studying for lessons and sermons.”
Corey also has a vision to help others working with teens. Each November, First Baptist Church hosts the Loving and Leading Conference, designed to encourage and assist those serving in ministry. The past few years, Corey has taught various classes for this conference that included topics from dealing with leadership insecurity to tips on working with a church intern. “It’s an awesome opportunity because I get to share what I’ve experienced in ministry and try to help someone else as they navigate similar situations in ministry.”
“Ministry has its unique challenges,” Corey admitted,
But it’s refreshing and encouraging to know that the time and energy put into the ministry are all for the ultimate cause of bringing glory to Jesus.