Local church youth leaders set to retire
By Alec Johnson
A couple will soon step away from roles they love.
Mark and Laurel Smith, youth directors at St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Carmel, will be stepping down at the end of the month after 25 years.
The couple has served youth since they participated in Ball State University’s Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) chapter. While there, they were hired to be youth directors at Christ United Methodist Church in Selma, Indiana in 1987, working there until they became youth directors at St. Mark’s in July 1990. Today, Mark works as an assistant principal at Clay Middle School and Laurel works as an instructional assistant at Forestville Elementary.
“It’s with a lot of mixed emotions for me as I begin to step away. It’s one of the hardest decisions that I’ve made, but I just feel like it is time for me to have a season of rest and listening again, and then I’m excited to see where God calls me next to further minister and to further introduce families to the love that he has for them,” said Mark Smith.
Laurel echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s going to be quite a change for us. We look forward to the future, but it’s also going to be tough. We’re going to miss those kids.”
The activities the Smiths led ranged from leading youth group meetings, community service, work camps and more. This year, 38 youths (most of them youth group members) and 10 adults recently returned from Accident, MD, a small community in the mountains of western Maryland near West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“Just providing our youth with opportunities to serve and see how they can be Christ’s hands and feet throughout the community, throughout their schools. We think that’s an important role in what we’ve done,” said Mark Smith.
A former student of the Smiths, Amy Risinger, now a teacher at Noblesville East Middle School, started in the program as a 7th grader, where she met her husband, Seth, also a teacher, but at Park Tudor. She reflected fondly on her time in the program.
“He’s always got a smile on his face, very welcoming and glad with you. I think he made it a point to make everyone feel welcomed and feel part of the group,” said Risinger.