Pastor pairs with college friend to serve Methodist church

When Justin Jenness was in middle school, a youth pastor took the time to give him rides to and from church events.

The act of generosity inspired the new associate pastor at the Flandreau United Methodist Church so much that he knew he wanted to serve God and others with a vocation in religion.

“He really invested time in me,” Jenness said. “I knew in that moment I wanted to give back as much as that guy gave to me.”

Jenness, 33, started four months ago in Flandreau in a job that he shares with senior pastor Don Vanderlip. The two also share duties at Southern Hills Methodist Church at 3400 E. 49th St. in Sioux Falls and were appointed to the positions by the synod in an effort to try something new in filling pulpits.

“It’s been a gift to be able to share the two churches,” Jenness said. “They both offer something different.”

Jenness, who grew up on a farm near Primghar, Iowa, in a family of 11 children, said serving Flandreau’s congregation of about 120 people each Sunday offers him the chance to share the community feel of a small town again. “I’m from a small town. This is right up my alley.”

Sharing the job with an old friend helps provide two pastors at each congregation, even though they typically are not at the same church at the same time. They preach in opposite churches on Sundays and share visitation duties. Jenness teaches confirmation classes at both parishes.

The two first met at the University of Sioux Falls where Vanderlip was Jenness’ resident hall director.

Both pastors live in Sioux Falls, and Jenness plans to start classes in the Kairos program at Sioux Falls Seminary. He will earn a Masters of Divinity to become an ordained Methodist minister, which he plans to do in three years of study.

Jenness, the eighth child of 11, was raised in the Reformed Church of America. He has worked as a youth pastor position in a Lutheran church in Lennox; as a youth pastor in a Reformed church in Sheldon, Iowa; and as an associate pastor at a Reformed church in Monroe.

Jenness said he has been led to be a Methodist pastor because the denomination’s beliefs are focused on grace, something he was less familiar with growing up but is the message of the gospel.

“Three years ago, I was bit. I felt God bit me and really woke me up,” he said. “I felt the urgency to preach the gospel, the urgency to share God’s love.

“There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and love,” he said. There’s nothing we can’t do to lose God’s love and grace. He loves us no matter what.”

When he is not working or studying God’s word, Jenness likes spending family time with his wife, Sarah, and their children, Simon, 3, and Siri, 1 ½. He also cheers for the Iowa Hawkeyes and enjoys kayaking, biking and other outdoor activities.



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