Mike Nygren says he feels at home in his job as youth coach at Tipp City United Methodist Church. He should.
The part time job he accepted last summer is at the same church where he and wife Sherri were volunteer youth leaders for five years after moving to the area in the early 1970s.
Decades later, Nygren took the job after semi-retiring from a career as a teacher and coach at churches, schools and nonprofits. His focus continues on helping young people grow and become leaders.
Among his first projects with the church was pulling together youth to help repair and paint the replica canal boat that sits near the Tipp Roller Mill.
For weeks last fall, youth and adult volunteers attacked what Nygren admitted was a big task.
"When the kids kept coming back to the mill, they surprised themselves. They began bringing their friends," he said.
The adults did most of the repairs while the youth handled scraping and painting. Along the way, they met adult role models, who talked with them, just as Nygren planned.
"I want them to meet adults who care about them," he said
His job includes coaching adults in the church in working with youth. "I am not a typical youth pastor who hangs out with kids. I am empowering adults," Nygren said.
The program involves you in local, regional and international efforts. Regionally, the youth have traveled to West Virginia to help with rebuilding in an area hard hit by flooding. Internationally, they are involved in a service program in Jamaica with which Nygren has been associated for several years.
He also holds leadership classes on Wednesday nights teaching youth how to make speeches and other skills.
Young people have not changed over the years, but parents have, he said.
"Parents want to run their kids’ lives every minute of the day. It isn't working," he said.
Nygren is a native of Brooklyn, New York. He studied teaching and taught industrial arts, continuing to call on those skills in many church projects. Sherri is from Centerville. He began working with youth in 1969.
"I have never one day not filled my original dream of being a teacher and coach ...but I never would have imagined where that would go," he said. "I think it is unique to be so old and doing what I know how to do."
Nygren also continues work on a grandparenting program focusing on grandparents changing roles that he developed as part-time work after semi-retirement. He said he dabbles in that project as time allows.