Photo submitted by Gabby Arland

Gabby Arland, Director of Student Ministry for Shepherd of the Valley Church, works hard to create a community and connect with students who attend the church’s youth group on Wednesday nights.

Gabby Arland makes her own way

Gabby Arland always thought she would be a lawyer.  She was standing in the backyard of her parents house on a humid evening watching the kids from church splash around in the pool.  She was leading an event for her church’s Jr. high youth group. It was the perfect night but her mind couldn’t help but trail off to the stacks of homework from AP classes that laid in her room. Jonathan, one of her youth pastors, walked up with her mom.  They made casual conversation before Jonathan mentioned how strong of a leader Gabby was at church and her potential in studying ministry post high school.  Her mom seemed unsure, but right then and there Gabby knew this was for her.

The hard work Gabby put in, both in her faith and her academics, guided her to have confidence in herself and her choice of career. She worked hard throughout high school not only in academics but with volunteering and bringing others to church. 

“Once I made that decision…I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Gabby said.

Gabby continued on with high school with the goal of student ministry in mind.  She never had the love of children’s ministry to pursue that field, but felt her connection to younger Jr. High and high school students pull her into the field of youth ministry. 

Learning how to be in ministry

She found herself realizing she never really saw women leading ministry. It wasn’t clear to her this was a path that a young woman could take.  The idea was first introduced to her by her youth pastors when she was in highschool.

Before Gabby found herself in ministry, she had “never seen a female youth pastor” before, so she wasn’t aware that this was an option for her.

Gabby’s parents didn’t know how to feel about her decision at first.  It was so surprising to them.  In the end knew this was the right path for her to take and supported her in her decision. 

Mary Arland, Gabby’s mom, explained her concerns as a parent. “You just worry like how are your kids going to survive, you know, in the future, by themselves with whatever occupation they have,” Mary said.

Once Gabby settled on ministry as her path, she decided to attend Bethel University in St. Paul.  She found her passion in ministry and found the idea of sermons alluring.

A lot of my friends were like switching majors and stuff and I never once thought about that,” Gabby said.

I think I’m learning really good experiences. I love this. This is really fun. I don’t want to do anything else.”

— Gabby Arland

While in school, Gabby got an internship with Shepherd of the Valley in the student ministry.  She showed strong leadership qualities throughout her time as a student and as an intern.  These qualities developed relationships with students at the church and made her a role model for younger students.

Mentor and original youth pastor of Gabby, Sam Dittrich described Gabby as the type of person that he could “count on to consistently show up…she had integrity. I knew if I asked her to do something she was going to do it and that’s a big deal.”

Being on staff

Gabby continued to work hard, show leadership skills and learn about ministry.  She was offered a spot on staff to work in student ministry, where she continued to grow in her ability to lead.  As she was added to staff, Gabby continued to be mentored by Dittrich who helped guide her throughout her time as an intern and now continues to lead with her as a coworker. As her time as an intern ended, Gabby learned the importance of her love of connecting with high school students.  She discovered highschool students could relate to her and had shared experiences which made her an able mentor.  This gave her the ability to connect with students further.

I like that ability to be a little bit older to feel like I can come from a place of experience, but also to be like, the things that you’re struggling with in high school, aren’t actually that different than the things that I’m still struggling with it all and I feel like that creates like a bond,” Gabby said.

Gabby does an unbelievably good job of being a leader in the church and working towards her goals.  She sets high standards for herself academically and continues to work hard putting together services on Wednesday nights.  This can be stressful and put a lot of pressure on one person. 

Mary expressed her concern when she said, “the expectation of her is very high, and I think that gets hard to live up to.”

Even after becoming part of the Staff, Gabby continues her education in ministry.  She continues to attend Bethel for graduate school to reach her goals of becoming a pastor.  Her schooling will take three more years to complete.  She will then receive her Masters of Divinity.

Despite the doubts of people, Gabby was confident in herself, decisions and worked hard.  She continues to reach for her goal of earning her Masters of Divinity and is proud of where she is in her career.  “I think I’m learning really good experiences. I love this. This is really fun. I don’t want to do anything else,” Gabby said.

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Gabby Arland makes her own way