A Cape Breton church that operates popular youth centres in Sydney and Glace Bay has created an internship program for young people who want to work in youth ministry.
Lighthouse of Cape Breton launched the Discipleship Adventure School in September.
"It's something we've been dreaming about doing for years," said David Sawler, lead pastor with Lighthouse and executive director of Undercurrent Youth Centre.
"It's basically an internship program to equip young people to do a lot of the work that we're seeing done with Lighthouse and Undercurrent youth centres already here in Cape Breton."
The interdenominational school is for students 18 to 25 years of age. It currently has six students, with another two starting next month for the second semester.
Learning how to run the place
Logan MacMaster of Dominion, Cape Breton, was a participant at Undercurrent before enrolling in the school. He said the youth centre offers a place for kids who would otherwise be on the streets, getting into trouble, or who don't have role models to look up to.
"It's nice to see that they can have a safe place to go to and people that care about them," he said.
Students spend about 20 hours a week helping to run the programs at Undercurrent, which include skateboarding, music and job training.
They also earn credits through Global University Distance Education, which can be used toward further studies in youth ministry, and they learn the basics of running a youth centre.
"Dave has been all about trying to show us how we can run something but have it pay for itself, like how to run a self-sustaining program," said MacMaster.
The school's adventure aspect has come in the form of hiking excursions around Cape Breton.
"We have some great things about Cape Breton," said Sawler, "so we're trying to pull that into what we do with our students, and what these guys are going to be doing with the young people they're working with."
The nine-month program costs $4,900, which includes courses, travel and lodging in a former bed and breakfast that was recently donated to Lighthouse. All the students have paid jobs with Undercurrent to help offset that cost.
A key goal of the program is to reduce financial barriers to young Cape Bretoners wanting to work in local youth centres, said Sawler.
"Our dream has been to have five youth centres across the CBRM," he said. "We're really hoping that the young people who come through the program will be our future leaders."