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Tyler Jarvis is bringing his enthusiastic and welcoming spirit to Guilford’s Christ Episcopal Church, where he has been hired to serve as its new director for Children & Youth Ministries. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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He grew up enjoying—and leading—Texas-based Church of Christ youth ministry programs. Now, Tyler Jarvis is bringing his enthusiastic and welcoming spirit to the youth of Guilford’s Christ Episcopal Church, where he has been hired to serve as its new director for Children & Youth Ministries.
On Sunday, Jan. 26, members of the church and the Guilford community are invited an open house to meet Tyler and learn more about his plans to invigorate and celebrate the church’s children’s and youth programming.
Tyler’s looking forward to encouraging all to support the church’s youth and hopefully get involved.
“I think, at least for the people at the church, I want to focus on the fact that you don’t have to have kids to be involved in a children’s youth ministry, and the most successful children’s youth ministries have lots of volunteers and sponsors,” he says. “Outside of church, I just want them to hear there is a space you can come exactly as you are; we have no expectations for you up front. We primarily want you to feel welcome and safe and loved. And in order to do that, we need a community of people that are committed.”
Located at 11 Park Street, Christ Episcopal Church invites the public to the free open house on Sunday, Jan. 26, which kicks off with a meet and greet at 9:30 a.m. with Tyler, then classtime activities (grades K to 8) at 10 a.m., followed by a children’s sermon at 10:30 a.m. A coffee hour will take place after the service.
In Support of Youth
Talk to Tyler about his work and life and his interest in supporting kids quickly becomes apparent.
“My dad was a youth minister when I was growing up, so I had a really good youth group experience,” says Tyler, 31. “In particular, I like working with middle schoolers. They’re thinking ‘We’re too old for kid things and we’re too cool for those things, but we’re skeptical of adults and we’re still trying to figure out who we are.’ And so there’s a kind of awkwardness, and I just love the awkwardness. When I was in middle school, I was really helped by people who knew I was awkward and still wanted to hang out with me. So it’s something I’m kind of passionate about, as well.”
Tyler, his wife Andrea, and two young daughters Addilyn (age two), and Lucy (one), are new to Connecticut. The family moved here in June, leaving their work and home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They came to the state so that Tyler could serve as summer camp director at Camp Washington, a camp and retreat center in Lakeside for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, while also studying at Yale Divinity School, where he’s now working on completing a master of arts in religion. Tyler also holds a master of divinity (2015) and B.A. in youth and family ministry (2009), both earned at Lubbock Christian University, Texas.
While he loved his work leading Camp Washington’s youth camp staff and campers and could have continued in the role year-round, living in northeastern Connecticut presented quite a school commute to New Haven, so Tyler began looking for an opportunity closer to Yale.
“I did youth ministry in Texas for 10 years, and I thought I’d like to keep doing something in that vein,” he says. “I like studying the bible academically, but I also like being connected to the ministerial aspect of it. So I was looking for jobs semi-related to that.”
That’s when he found out about the opening at Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford. While it has been a while since Christ Episcopal had a dedicated director of youth programming, Tyler says the church has done a great deal to welcome and nurture its youth members.
“They already have lots of ways for kids to be involved in service, so we’re going to plug into some of that and try and build on that as well, so everybody feels they’re not just showing up at church, but the church needs them,” he says.
Helping youth to feel more involved with their church is a constant goal of youth programming for faith groups of all types, he adds.
“In my experience in the church, I think a reason a lot of people don’t stick around in the church or maybe grew up in church and stopped going to churches, is that there’s not a connection to the main body of the church,” he says. “That’s one of the things I want to work on with Christ Episcopal, is helping form a connection, so that when I’m confirmed [as a youth], I don’t step into a church that I’m not actually all that familiar with. Because I feel like a lot of times we prepare kids to go to churches that don’t exist—once you get out of youth group, ‘real church’ doesn’t look like the church you grew up going to.”
Another Chance to be a Student
A few years after he earned his master of divinity in Texas in 2015, “I told my wife I’d like to go back, and I’m going to apply at schools that have no business taking me,” he says.
One of the reasons Tyler decided to apply to Yale Divinity School is simply that he loves studying religion and wanted to go to one of the top schools where it is studied.
“I just like the academic side of it, because I’m a nerd and I like all that,” he says, laughing. “The full title of my degree [at Yale] is master of arts in religion with a concentration in Second Temple Judaism. Mostly, I’m interested in the Hebrew Bible side of it. I love the Old Testament, and I feel like at least in the churches I grew up in, we kind of talked about the Old Testament and it was important because it gets us to Jesus. And I’m like, ‘That’s fine, I’m all in on Jesus—but I also just like the Hebrew Bible.’ And there is a whole religion out there that doesn’t have the New Testament and still manages to have a full, meaningful, rich tradition. So I think I’d like to know more about the Hebrew Bible as the Hebrew Bible.”
The story of his acceptance to Yale Divinity School has a “little” more to it—in the form of Tyler’s little daughter, Addilyn.
“Two years ago, when I applied at Yale, we were foster parents in Texas of a little girl who had lived in our home since she was four days old,” says Tyler of Addilyn. “Her parents were getting ready to take her home when I heard from Yale that I got in—that was March 15, 2018. So my wife and I started planning this move, and two days later, we were told the foster parents were [instead] terminating their parents’ rights, and did we want to adopt her?”
Tyler and Andrea didn’t hesitate in their decision to adopt Addilyn, however, completing the adoption meant staying in Texas for several more months until it was finalized.
“So I had to call up Yale and say, ‘I’m not coming this year, because we’re going to stay in Texas and adopt our daughter,’” says Tyler, who reapplied to Yale and was accepted again in March 2019.
The family now resides in Hamden. Tyler says he’s looking forward to learning more about the town of Guilford and helping to create community and church bonds for all who want to join youth programming at Christ Episcopal church.
“One of the things I liked about our church in Texas is we had a very eclectic mix of kids—kids that were kind of like, ‘I don’t really fit in here or here.’ And they fit in with us and they had a great time. And kids who don’t belong to the church can come to the group...If you don’t have anywhere, if you need a place to belong, that’s where I want people to come,” he says.
To learn more about Christ Episcopal Church in Guilford, visit www.christchurchguilford.org.
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