There’s a new face among Milford’s list of youth advocates: Joshua Kellogg is the new youth director at Grace Baptist Church, and he’s already been out in search of community projects, youth activities and ways to connect with the city’s other youth-focused programs.
Kellogg started in March. He was selected after a rigorous search and at least half a dozen interviews.
“We thought he was the most qualified candidate,” said Grace Baptist Pastor Joe Mixie.
Kellogg, 26, grew up in Shelton and he’s living there now with his wife and 1-year-old daughter, but he was in Virginia when the Milford church offered him the job that brought him back home. He graduated from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., with a bachelor’s degree in religion/youth ministry, before starting on a master’s degree in religion, with a focus on pastoral counseling. He was working in Virginia when he interviewed for the Milford position.
Grace Baptist Church has a relatively new teen center, and that was one of the things that really attracted Kellogg to the post.
The $400,000 teen and youth center, called The Red Zone, which houses large-screen televisions, Ping-Pong and other games, plus a kitchen area, “shows the church is really committed to youth,” Kellogg said.
Pastor Joe agreed that the church has always been youth-focused. And in a time when many religious organizations are struggling financially, the teen center is certainly a sign that youth is a priority.
The pastor said prioritizing youth may mean reallocating funds from other areas, “but the Lord will provide,” he said.
Kellogg said he didn’t always know he wanted to be a minister. Initially he thought he might pursue a career that relied on math skills, but in his freshman year of college he realized that life had been preparing him for ministry.
Growing up in Shelton, he went regularly to church with his family: Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Trumbull. He helped with the youth ministry there, and experienced many of the responsibilities of a youth pastor. In Virginia, he was spiritual life director and resident assistant for his school’s office of student leadership, and later he was youth ministry leader at the Living Word Baptist Church in Lynchburg.
His life path also led him to Milford and Grace Baptist Church, which Pastor Joe described as a conservative evangelical church.
Joey Mixie, the pastor’s son, and Foran High School math teacher Frank Peters managed the 3,000-square-foot teen center when it first opened in 2014. Peters said then he envisioned it as a place to draw kids from the community not just for its indoor amenities but for its outdoor offerings, too. There are woods and a good-sized fire pit, and plenty of open space for playing football or other games.
Kellogg just may be the perfect person to carry on Peters’ vision, as well as his own. Kellogg’s sister, Amanda, is married to Frank Peters, so there’s certainly a family connection. But Mixie pointed out that the family tie isn’t the reason Kellogg was chosen for the job: He earned that on his own.
Kellogg said his focus with area youth will be to help them understand what it means to be a Christian; they will talk about the Bible. There are weekly meetings at the teen center, which is located on Burnt Plains Road, on Sundays at 9 a.m. and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Kellogg wants to expand the senior high school program, and he plans to meet youth outside the church walls, too, like at the basketball courts, where he joined some of the youth recently for a game.
Pastor Joe said he trusts Kellogg to run the youth program as he sees fit.
Kellogg said part of the process will be “trying to build connections” and looking around the community to see where he, and the youth group, can serve the community.
He’d like Milford youth to know, for example, that youth group meetings are open to anyone and may have something that even non-church members can use. In addition to the XBox 360 and air hockey game at the youth center, there’s some practical discussion, Kellogg said, explaining that a recent Wednesday meeting focused on the topic of anger — “What do we do with anger?” He talked to the youth about anger, forgiveness, and what it means to forgive.
Kellogg has a list of upcoming events, including a 30-hour famine May 13 to May 14 when youth will raise money for World Vision to help fight world hunger and poverty.
There is a car wash May 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the church, also to raise money for World Vision, and Kellogg has planned in June a girls Bible study and a bonfire, and then in July, vacation Bible school, plus other activities.
Kellogg welcomes people to contact him at 203-874-8928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.