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Ministry with a mission

Mar 29, 2016
by Laura Smith

There is one item on Justin Forbes’ desk. One. It’s a laptop computer, a rather lonesome-looking tool parked on a wide swath of polished workspace. Bookshelves around the office of the Flagler College Youth Ministry Program are tidy, organized. In fact, the level of orderliness is startling, considering the incredible level of productivity emanating from this little command central on Valencia Street, where Forbes juggles the responsibilities of professor, spiritual mentor, consultant, husband, father, and most recently, director of the Youth Ministry Program.

Forbes, a 2002 Flagler alumnus and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, took over the position in June, following the retirement of long-time director Martha Shinn, ‘78, who helmed the program for more than 25 years. He also teaches youth ministry and serves on the local board for Young Life. In each of these roles, Forbes is focused on helping young people develop the skills that will allow them to live a life of leadership, whether in youth ministry, lay ministry or the mainstream workplace.

The director’s position is perfectly suited to Forbes, according to Shinn, who describes her successor as a strong leader and a gifted speaker and teacher.

“When I first contemplated retiring, my first choice of the person to take over my position was Justin,” she said. “The timing seemed right — he was just about to finish his degrees at Princeton Seminary. I thought he would be a great fit. One of Justin’s many gifts is his high level of energy and his passion and wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to Youth Ministry.”

Forbes is deferential, attributing his success in the role to his education at Flagler and Princeton, and to the opportunities he had to work with Shinn prior to taking on the director’s position.

“I was a student of Martha’s myself and worked alongside of her and Flagler’s Youth Ministry program for six years while I was on the St. Augustine Young Life staff,” he said. “I hope to continue her legacy of serving the student body so well.”

Busy as he is with the needs of the Youth Ministry program, life is certainly not all work and no play. In fact, play is a big part of his life as well, given that he’s the father of four children under the age of 10: Noah, 9; Sofia, 7; Elijah, 6; and Karis, 2. He and his wife Bethany Forbes, ‘04, are often in “divide and conquer” mode when it comes to managing the needs of a growing family. “Yep, it can get a little crazy,” he said, laughing.

But crazy’s just fine with Forbes. Each morning will find him back at his cleanly-ordered desk, ready to take on the demands of the day and finding joy at every step — especially when it comes to interacting with the students on which his program is focused.

“The most exciting part of this program is working with students, being a part of their lives at this formative stage,” he said. “It’s a joy to work with them.”

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