As the new director of children’s and youth ministries at Jesse Lee Memorial United Methodist Church, Carrie King knows that the bar is set very high.

King was hired recently to fill the newly created position at Jesse Lee, whose day school and Vacation Bible School are among the biggest in Ridgefield for young children. Meanwhile, Jesse Lee’s Appalachia Service Project group is one of the largest local ASP programs for teens in the entire U.S.

“I promise I won't change a lot too fast, but sometimes new is good,” she said.

Her primary role at Jesse Lee will be to strategize and implement programs for Jesse Lee Kids (preK-5) and Jesse Lee Youth (middle and high school); those offered on Sunday mornings and evenings, but also those during the week.

“Basically, I get paid to hang out and have fun with young people and show them about Jesus with my life and through conversations and occasionally official talks and lessons,” she said when asked to describe her job. “I love the idea of taking kids from childhood through college and seeing how their life and faith grows in that time.”

Other tasks include planning and carrying out Vacation Bible School each summer and de-veloping faith-inclusive elements of the Jesse Lee Day School.

“My goal is to help make each person the best version of themselves, which for me includes learning about and following the teachings of the Bible,” she said. “I grew up in the United Methodist Church so that is one of the lenses I look through and use, though certainly not the only one.”

The Rev. Bill Pfohl, Jesse Lee’s senior pastor, is excited to have King at the church.

“With a master’s degree in youth ministry, Carrie not only brings the fun engagement that connects kids and youth with one another, but also a deep awareness of what ‘growing up well’ means for healthy adults,” Pfohl said. “We look forward to learning from her, and to continue to support and bless the Ridgefield community.”

A native of New Fairfield, King received her undergraduate degree in music education from Messiah College in Pennsylvania and a graduate degree in youth ministry leadership from Huntington University in Indiana. Her previous roles include: teaching music and musical instruments in Fairfield elementary and middle schools; director of children and youth ministries at Watertown (CT) United Methodist Church; Protestant campus pastor at Culver Academies in Indiana; and, most recently, director of children's ministries at New Life United Methodist Church in New Fairfield.

Attendance at churches - nationwide, including in Ridgefield - has declined but King believes they still should play an important role for children and teens.

“Churches are a unique place where children and youth can age together in one setting and be surrounded by people in other generations,” she said. “The saying ‘it takes a village’ can truly be found in a church! It also gives them an idea of how to interact with the wider world for something bigger than themselves, through service projects in the local area or around the world. Of course, many organizations can do some of that, but only churches also teach the redeeming mercy and grace of Christ Jesus.”

King steps into a youth program that includes Jesse Lee’s participation in Appalachia Service Project, which - as the second largest ASP local group in America - sent 281 teens and adults to Kentucky and Tennessee for a week of home repair last month. She wants those youths to be involved in the weekly youth ministry, not just in ASP.

“As with most middle-upper class suburban towns, Ridgefield has a bubble that can seem stifling but also very comfortable,” King said. “Jesse Lee already does a lot to help the out-side world, but I think it would be a fun adventure to help us reach even further and see the impact we can make.”