Longtime youth pastor Wayne Yamamoto recently took a spiritual step in a different direction at Dungeness Community Church. Nearly 17 years after receiving a call from church leaders while living in Boise, Idaho, Yamamoto segued into a new role as associate pastor two weeks ago.
He turned 55 recently and told the Gazette, “I figured it was time to turn over the reins.”
Newly branded Washingtonian Daniel Conner from Surprise, Ariz. — in the Phoenix area — accepted Yamamoto’s old position and started work in early August. Yamamoto started in youth ministry 32 years ago, which ironically is Conner’s age.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping youth,” Yamamoto said.
His associate pastor position emphasizes men’s ministry along with discipleship training for people in the church’s ministries.
“My goal is to see men growing with their relationship with Christ and their families while being active in the community and sharing what God is doing for them,” Yamamoto said.
He sees the church as having a need in some ministries but gaining strength in others.
“We want to broaden the scope of the ministry,” Yamamoto said.
Conner comes to Sequim with his wife, Violet, and their daughter, Riley, 3, after serving in Arizona since graduating from Southwest Baptist College, now Arizona Christian University, in 2002.
He’ll assume the title of student ministries pastor and lead the middle and high school ministries and help create a college-age ministry.
“High school was a critical time for me,” Conner said. “Thankfully, my parents thought it was important to attend and be involved in a church and exampled that for me ... As a sophomore, I realized I wanted to become a youth pastor.”
He’s worked in youth ministry off and on since graduation. His last position was in a jack-of-all trades ministry, leading and coordinating weddings, funerals, and groups on divorce, adoption and finances.
Conner said he missed youth ministry and discovered Washington’s population attends church the least.
“There’s a huge need, period,” he said, for people and students to find Christianity. “I have a burden and heart for students.”
For youth nights, Dungeness Community Church hosts on average 15-35 junior high students and 25-40 high school students, Yamamoto said.
Of the 1,500-plus Sequim students in middle and high school, he feels there are growing opportunities for the church and students.
“There’s lots of churches making it (youth ministry) a priority,” Yamamoto said.
In 17 years, he’s seen baby boomers’ children grow up and now there’s a different group of students coming into schools and the church.
“It’s not better or worse, just different,” he said. “It’s a different paradigm. The dynamic has changed.”
Yamamoto said he’s willing to give direction to Conner and be a sounding board for him if he needs it. “I’m sure he’ll hit the ground running, though,” he said.
Conner said his goal remains to connect students with God, helping them take on activities like leading small group Bible studies while building on existing work. He’s passionate about mission work, too.
“Change takes time,” Conner said. “New things will take at least six months ... Building momentum takes time.”
Conner said the average tenure at a church for a youth pastor is nine months and that church congregations sometimes hold expectations that might not be met for at least six months.
“To have Wayne here for 17 years is amazing,” Conner said. “It goes beyond just stability for me. Some churches expect results right away but it might not get there for six months or longer. It speaks volumes about Wayne, pastor Scott (Culver) and the church.”
Conner’s free time includes first and foremost spending time with his family, keeping up with basketball and the Phoenix Suns, and trips to Disneyland.
“We’re all about having fun and loving God while we’re doing it,” Conner said about the church ministry. “We’re not a babysitting crew and we’re very purposeful in what we do.”
He’ll partner with his wife in leading the student ministries.
For more information on Dungeness Community Church, call 683-7333 or visit online www.dcchurch.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.