high school, when most teenagers are preoccupied with attending football games
and getting their driver’s licenses, Nick Johnson was busy studying to receive
his license to preach. At the age of fifteen, Johnson enjoyed the same
activities as any other teenager; however, he had a keen interest in ministry:
it was clear to him that he was being called to serve the church. Johnson was
raised as a Baptist in Irvington, New Jersey, where he attended a Roman
Catholic high school and served as an associate minister at Good Neighbor
Baptist Church in Newark. In the fall, he will work at Christ Episcopal Church in
New Brunswick as part of his field education placement. As a teenager and now
as a young adult, the church continues to play an important role in Johnson’s
he felt his call, at just fifteen years old, Johnson recalled being old enough
to recognize that he was being called to ministry, and also wise enough to know
that, “God does not have (time or age) boundaries when calling someone to
ministry.” Following high school graduation, in 2006, Johnson attended the
University of Chicago, where he studied history and religion.
college graduation in 2010, Johnson sought to further challenge his faith and
clarify his sense of call. He enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary. “I’ve
enjoyed testing and challenging my intellect and being in a community where my
colleagues also have commitments to faith and are excited to talk about God. I’ve
met people at PTS that will become lifelong friends, whom I can call on for
advice about life and about preaching,” he said. Johnson credits his time at PTS,
in particular, the classes and his interactions with fellow seminarians, with
clarifying his path and giving him ideas for new and creative ways to minister.
his coursework, Johnson realized that he did not need to choose “the academy or
the church.” He said he was, “excited to learn that the two are not opposed to
each other and that I can use my talents to contribute to both arenas and
combine my career aspirations of becoming an academician and pastor.” Sleep,
Surrender, and the Sabbath taught by professor of pastoral theology, Robert
Dykstra, is one class Johnson found particularly “enlightening.” It gave him
the tools to develop a lifestyle of health and wholeness while reminding him to
be a “faithful steward of this body.”
felt his own call at a young age and having spent time working with young
adults, Johnson is drawn toward youth ministry. “Young adults relate well to
me, which allows us to connect through study, devotion, and conversation. Many
times teenagers feel like they must follow commands set out by their parents or
the church, but the rules often lack explanations. One of the things I enjoy
most is talking with young adults, giving honest answers, and exploring issues
that are on their minds,” he said. Johnson is thankful for the church, which
supports his efforts of going into the community and creating a forum for connecting
and interacting with youth. “Ministry allows me to be their sounding board,
answer questions, and point them in the right direction,” he said.
a spiritual leader, Johnson relies on an open mind and acceptance of others as
his brothers and sisters regardless of their past or current life situation. “It
is important to engage those who have different beliefs than us or come from
different walks of life. We learn and grow the most when we interact with
individuals who have different viewpoints than we do,” he said.
During summer 2011, Johnson spent time working in Trenton, New Jersey, with
the youth services division of Mercer Street Friends, an organization that
provides intervention, clinical services, and counseling for youth. Beginning his
middler year in the fall 2011, he will focus on field education in pastoral
ministry at Christ Episcopal Church. Johnson anticipates graduating in 2013
with an M.Div.
and then working in pastoral ministry in an urban context and pursuing a Ph.D.
focusing on American Christianity. Academician and pastor—both roles fit well!