Arielle Shepard ('11) | Bible, Missions and Ministry

Arielle Shepard photo

Youth and family ministry
major from San Antonio

Arielle Shepard has a passion for young people who are at a pivotal point in their lives. The decisions they make about God can affect their futures – and Arielle wants to be a part of that decision-making process.

"The youth age is such a formative age," she said.

While in high school, Arielle did a mentoring program with her youth minister, who encouraged her to look deeper into youth ministry and see what goes on behind the scenes. What she found intrigued her

"The real ministry is what goes on outside of Bible class," she said.

Arielle's experience with youth ministry has continued in college. The summer after her freshman year, she interned with Grace Crossing Community Church of Christ in Conroe. She taught classes and was part of the summer youth programs. She also got to sit in on church meetings and interact with the office staff. The opportunity to observe logistics of church life fascinated her.

"It was really cool to see how church works," she said.

Lessons from an orphanage

Arielle's ministry experience wasn't limited to the United States, either. She also went to Nigeria with World Wide Witness to do a seven-week internship. Four of the five other students with her were from ACU. The group stayed at an orphanage in a small Nigerian village, working with the 63 orphans and 15 staff members who live there permanently.

The real ministry is what goes on outside of Bible class.

The orphanage, called Susana Homes, was founded by a Nigerian woman who earned her master’s and Ph.D. in the United States but felt a call to return to Nigeria and start a home for at-risk mothers and their children. Her plan evolved into the orphanage, which houses children from 7 months to adults who have now taken positions on staff. While working there, Arielle found the atmosphere warm and encouraging, both for the volunteers and those they sought to help.

"It's just this big community," she said. "They just take care of each other. It really is like an oasis."

Arielle spent a lot of time in the nursery, working with the babies. She and the rest of the group also got a chance to go into the city to visit a friend of the one of the volunteers.

"It was a great learning experience," she said.

Seekers of the Word

Arielle has also contributed to the ministry effort on ACU's campus. She serves as spiritual director for Seekers of the Word, a drama ministry group on campus that performs skits at youth events as well as at prison ministry events and juvenile detention centers. The group has been in existence for about 20 years, and current membership stands at 18. Arielle describes the group as a mix of majors and interests who have all come together for a common purpose and who feel a deep sense of comfort and trust with each other.

"We're just family," she said.

Arielle is eager to start her own youth group, but right now she's looking for a full-year internship before she takes on the challenge of youth ministry on her own - "just to get more practice," she explained.

Her goals for youth ministry are simple, but practical. She wants to make kids realize she cares about them and wants to be part of their lives outside the church doors. She also wants to be more involved with the kids' parents, working with them and sharing their concerns for their children’s spiritual journey.

"I would really like to help the parents get involved with their kids' faith," she said.

But her primary goal is to develop in her students the qualities she finds in the life and words of Jesus - the spiritual gifts that will stay with them long after volleyball games and cookouts have been forgotten.

"I would really like to encourage a servant heart in my students - a selfless faith," she said.

Learn more about attending ACU 

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Alumnus Matt Wallace describes his ministry with homeless teens in Denver, Colorado, and how ACU prepared him for a life of service.
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