Chris Molnar

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Chris Molnar

Director of Youth Ministries
Takoma Park Presbyterian Church (TPPC)
Takoma Park, Md.
(301) 270-5550

Age: 25

Salary: $13,000 annually for a 12-hour week.

About TPPC: The church, in a neighborhood that straddles the line between Washington, D.C., and urban Maryland, is a mid-sized Presbyterian church with a passion for social justice. Its youth reflect the church’s inclusive culture. A typical month-long calendar of youth group activities might include serving meals at a homeless shelter in Baltimore, attending a Narcotics Anonymous open meeting and worshipping with youth from another denomination.

“Mostly, [the youth] are a very welcoming and compassionate group, and are more eager to celebrate differences than defend against them,” Molnar said.

His Job: Molnar leads a weekly confirmation class with TPPC’s senior pastor and parish associate, and leads a Sunday evening youth group of about a dozen youths ages 12 to 18. While the confirmation class uses a year-long curriculum, evenings are more free form and “full throttle,” Molnar said. After reading Mark Yaconelli’s book Contemplative Youth Ministry, Molnar said he is focusing less on tight programming and more on making it “about relationships.”

“I plan stuff, try to make that stuff happen, realize it probably won’t happen, at least not how I intend it to happen, then ad lib according to the energies of the students at that given moment,” he said. “Sunday night is supposed to be a time of community – a time when everyone can expect to come together and share time with each other. That’s the biggest thing I’ve tried to facilitate.”

Best Part of the Job: “Seeing growth. Mostly, this is through the development of fellowship and relationships, but also through occasions of personal introspection. Whatever I try to teach, that probably won’t be remembered very long, but if the students are forming a community and giving careful thought to their lives, they’re growing in deeper ways than some theological lesson, no matter how practically I may present it.”

Worst Part of the Job: “The procession of events each Sunday bankrupts my social energy. Fortunately, I have a great weekly bailout plan: going home, shutting my door, and shutting up.”

Most Memorable Moment: “The moments that I love are when I get to sit back and watch people come together and get excited about something. This past week, we did sculpting with fruit, and people really got into playing with that. But they also got excited about working with each other and joking around. Getting a chance to see the interactions develop is really beautiful.”

How He Got Here: Molnar graduated in 2006 from Case Western Reserve University, with degrees in English and religion. He is enrolled in American University’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. As an undergraduate, Molnar said he felt called to teaching. His first job after college was as a youth director at a Presbyterian church in Cleveland. He said his job with TPPC allows him to do what he loves, use his skills, pay his bills and go to graduate school – all at the same time.

What Would Make His Job Even Better: “I want this to be a ministry … that’s fully supported by the congregation. I would really like a larger contingent of people saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there Sunday night.’ Not just to fulfill the obligation that we have to have two adults, but to interact with the students. Because as wonderful as I may be [laughs], I can’t be the one who connects with everyone. Some students will interact better with other people. I want to give them every opportunity to have a broad base of adult mentors.”