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Empowering Their Generation

Two teens use calling and talents to minister to youth groups of rural churches in Iowa.
Two Iowa teens who started a ministry volunteering to speak at rural churches have taken to heart 1 Timothy 4:12.

The well-known verse, in which the apostle Paul encourages his spiritual son, Timothy, says, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

Colton Hagen and Ethan Jones, who are both 18 years old and graduated high school this summer, are sons of preachers. They started doing short sermons two years ago during the Iowa Fine Arts Festival.

Then in 2023, the duo felt compelled to start preaching and leading worship to assist rural churches' youth groups via their Every Student Ministry.

They have ministered at several Iowa churches, including Carroll First Church in Carroll, Stone Bridge Church in Granger, Community Hope Assembly of God Church in Montezuma, LifePointe Church in Ames, and River City Church in Mason City.

“I have felt the calling to be a children's pastor once I graduate college,” explains Hagen, whose father, David T. Hagen, is lead pastor of Carroll First Church. “This has given me an amazing opportunity to practice this gift God has placed on my life. Doing this has also given us connections to pastors around Iowa.”

Jones, whose father, Todd D. Jones, is lead pastor of Stone Bridge Church, adds, “Finding churches that are willing to give two high schoolers a chance to lead youth can sometimes be hard, but every pastor we have communicated with has been super awesome and encouraging.”

Paige Wilson, who leads Community Hope's student ministry, notes that the teens “blessed not only our students when they ministered to our youth, but also our leaders.”

“Our youth group is led by eight to 10 volunteer parents who all have full time jobs,” she says. “We love the youth, but it is challenging for us to prepare games and a message each time we meet because of our busy schedules.

“Colton and Ethan came prepared with games, led our time of worship and shared a powerful message of the gospel. We were blessed to see our students respond to the gospel when the message came from one of their peers. These two young men are men of honor, integrity and have a genuine love for the Lord.”

Riley Edwards, co-director of the student ministries at LifePointe Church, says the duo “blessed our youth group by showing that students can reach other students for Jesus.”

“They are a blessing to the state by going to small towns that have a hard time keeping youth workers and bringing the gospel to students who deserve to hear the good news like anyone else,” he adds. “By growing in their God-given talents and abilities, they are helping to bridge various gaps to reach the next generation in Iowa.”

Iowa Ministry Network NextGen Director Ryan Yates remembers hearing “Colton preach and Ethan lead worship” in November 2023 at the Iowa Ministry Network Youth Convention.

“I was blown away,” he recalls. “Colton and Ethan saw a need to empower students in their generation and were obedient to what they felt God was leading them to do.

“Colton speaks clearly with great cadence and confidence,” Yates adds. “He preaches the truth and speaks boldly. His theology is sound, and his conviction is genuine. Ethan leads with passion and humility. He doesn’t seek recognition but serves and worships with confidence. Ethan is anointed and sensitive to the Spirit.”

He notes that the teens are filling a need.

“Not only are they helping rural churches, but they are empowering students of their generation to step up and step out in obedience to the Lord,” Yates explains. “Their whole initiative shows students that they don’t have to wait to be used by God. They can be used right now. They only have to be willing and obedient.”

David T. Hagen says, “it’s awesome to see how Colton and Ethan love students.”

“They connect well with them and care deeply for them,” he adds. “It’s been neat to see how God is using them, while growing them and the callings He has placed on them. They are learning that ministry is not all about fancy stages and large crowds, but about reaching people where they are, and celebrating the big and seemingly small things God is doing.”

Todd D. Jones echoes his sentiment, noting that his son, Ethan, has always been involved in ministry.

“Coming from a rural community, it is special to see Ethan using his gifts to minister in rural churches,” he says. “We have seen God use him and Colton in amazing ways this last year just by taking a step of faith.”

Yates adds, “Ethan and Colton are two young men who are on fire for the Lord. They are leading their generation in ways that older adults can’t. They lead by example and encourage and empower students to operate in their calling. What they are doing is not only a blessing to rural churches but is changing students' lives across Iowa.”

The duo plan on attending North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the fall.

“We’re speaking at chapel services during Iowa's youth camp this summer,” Hagen explains. “We’re looking at ministering at possible churches before college. We are most excited about an all-student event called Chosen. Our goal is to show the younger generation that they can start going after what God has called them to do.”

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.