In 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 life.  nick

When 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.

Following 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.

Through 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.”

Having 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.

As 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!