As a youth growing up in the United Methodist Church in Wapakoneta, Misty Speaks was very involved in several programs. From youth group, to choir, to bell choir, her faith formation helped shape who she has become as an adult.

Now a resident of Van Wert with her children, Hailey (17), Brylar (15) and Cameron (3), Speaks happened to see on social media that St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (UMC) in Defiance had an opening for a director of youth ministries, following the departure of Marcella Ciccotelli.

“I grew up at a Methodist church in Wapakoneta, and when I moved (to Van Wert), I began working for a Presbyterian church,” began Speaks, a 2001 graduate of Wapakoneta High School. “I was on Facebook, and by accident I saw the position was open. I’ve been wanting to get back to the Methodist church, so I Googled how far away Defiance is from Van Wert. I thought it would be a good fit, so I applied.”

St. Paul’s UMC thought Speaks was a good fit as well, and she started her first official day on the job on Aug. 16.

“One of my best friends is the youth coordinator at the Presbyterian church (in Van Wert where Speaks also works as secretary/marketing director), so I help her a lot with youth events,” said Speaks. “So when I saw this position was open, I thought, I really love youth ministry, and I think this would be a good fit.”

Now in her second week on the job, Speaks is working on plans to help the middle school/high school youth at St. Paul’s UMC grow deeper in their own faith.

“I’m working on new, fresh ideas for our youth,” said Speaks, who is engaged to be married to her fiancé, Thomas King. “I want our youth to grow in a close, personal relationship with Christ, to study the Bible and to grow as friends with the other youth here at church. Those friendships can make a big difference, I had that growing up in Wapakoneta, and I want our youth here to be close to their church family.

“With everything going on in the world, especially with COVID-19, working with our youth is so very important,” added Sparks. “I’m looking forward to meeting all the youth at our Bonfire Kickoff (Aug. 30 from 6-8 p.m. at Mark Moats Ford in Defiance), I’m very excited to get to know them before we start meeting in September on Wednesday nights and during our Sunday night Pathways.”

Some long-term goals Speaks has for the program include upbeat faith formation, mission trips and for the youth to be more active in the community.

“I am ready to get to work to build relationships here in Defiance, to get to know the community, so that I can find where our youth can help meet needs,” said Speaks. “Unfortunately, it’s a difficult time with COVID, it definitely makes it tough because you’re not able to plan anything in advance, instead you’re working on things from week to week.

“I would also like to reach out to our sister churches and see where we can make a difference together,” added Speaks. “The most important thing I want to address moving forward, is that the youth grow in their faith in ways that are meaningful to them. I want to be in their world with them, and help them grow in faith in their comfort zone, which is much different than our own. I can’t wait to meet the kids and get going.”

For more information about the St. Paul’s UMC youth ministry, contact Speaks at 419-782-3751, or at

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