There’s an old adage that says, "you can’t go home again." Many young people who feel the call to ministry are discovering that the cliche is simply not true as they return to serve at their home churches. Covington native Philip Carroll, youth minister at Covington Christian Church, is one of those people.
Carroll, 22, is the son of Brigadier General Les Carroll and his wife, Linda. He was born and raised in Covington, along with two brothers, Timothy and Daniel, and a sister, Emily. The family are longtime members of Covington Christian.
Carroll accepted Christ at the age of eight, and he grew up with the understanding that God is real and loves him. He first felt a call to serve in ministry at age 15 while attending a Christ In Youth Conference with his youth group, but by his senior year of high school, he was certain he didn’t know what he wanted to do.
He attended Georgia Southern University for a year and a half, where he was involved in a campus ministry and a discipleship group, but he knew his time in Statesboro was limited and that God had other plans for him.
"A senior in my discipleship group said to me, ‘I believe that you’re going to bring God glory wherever you go, but where can you bring him the most glory?’" said Carroll.
After much prayer, Carroll believed the answer was the University of Georgia. The summer before he transferred to Athens, he was tapped to lead a group of students on a mission trip to Peru. On that trip, Carroll developed close relationships with the students, and God began to nudge him again toward full-time ministry.
At UGA, he roomed with a Japanese exchange student named Yasu, who was Buddhist. The two developed a close friendship and had many discussions about spiritual matters, which led to Carroll baptizing Yasu as a new Christian two weeks before Yasu was to return to Japan.
"Yasu now rides the train an hour and a half into Tokyo so he can attend church," said Carroll. "He met backlash from his family, especially his grandparents, but he’s standing strong as a follower of Christ, and God used me to spread his love to Yasu."
In the summer of 2008, Carroll was offered an internship at Covington Christian Church. He was excited and full of ideas, but the summer was difficult; Carroll believes that the internship was tough because he did the work on his own, without seeking God’s help.
"I came away from that summer knowing that I wanted to do anything with my life but ministry," laughed Carroll, "but over the next few months, God revealed to me where I went wrong."
The following fall, Covington Christian hired a new pastor, Tim Bolen. Bolen asked Carroll to continue his internship the following summer. After praying for four weeks, Carroll believed that God wanted him to continue working with the students at his home church. In the fall of 2009, he was offered a part time position in student ministry at Covington Christian, and upon his graduation in 2010, he was hired full time.
Covington Christian has three avenues for students to connect and learn. The church has Sunday School classes for middle and high school students, and they offer Wednesday night groups where students dig deeper in Bible study and accountability. On Sunday nights, Carroll leads a teen service called The Fuse, which includes games, relevant teaching, and small groups.
Carroll is excited about seeing entire families impacted by God; he is especially moved when teens bring the rest of their family to church. He believes the greatest challenge in ministry in the 21st century is that students are more accessible, but they connect less in meaningful relationships.
Carroll graduated from the University of Georgia in early May and got married in late May. He met his wife Kari at a CIY Conference when they were both 14. In the midst of major life change, Carroll relies on God to help him cope.
"I try to embrace change," Carroll said. "I love life, and I love to learn. I know that God created the Christian life to be fun, and that doesn’t end at a certain age."
Carroll credits the emphasis of the church where he grew up on raising Godly youth for his commitment to service and ministry. He believes the foundation that Covington Christian laid for his family solidified his dedication to ministry and service.
"I’m a witness to what a church that is committed to youth can do, but I’m also a product of it," said Carroll.