Vickery joins Guttenberg as St. John's director of children, youth, and family ministry

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John L. Vickery has begun work at St. John's Lutheran Church in Guttenberg as the new director of children, youth, and family ministries. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

On Sunday, Aug. 2, St. John’s Lutheran Church held an installation service for John Vickery, their new director of children, youth, and family ministries. Vickery is a native of Washington state with a background in music and youth ministry.

Vickery arrived in Guttenberg on Thursday, July 30, after making the four day journey from Washington in a moving truck with his car in tow. He sat down with The Press during his second day on the job.

“I’m jumping in with planning events like our annual confirmation retreat, which kicks off the year,” he said. Vickery will also be working closely with St. John’s pastor Shane Anderson on Sunday school, confirmation, and other youth programs.

Anderson describes his vision for the church youth program as "bringing young people and their families to a justifying faith in Christ and helping them find meaning as disciples as they live out their faith in service to others."

Vickery has experience working with children in both congregational and camp settings. He was previously employed by Christ Lutheran Church in Ferndale, Wash., as the contemporary music director and the assistant to the youth minister. He spent 17 years attending camp at the Lutherwood Camp and Retreat Center in Bellingham, Wash., where he started as a camper and eventually became a camp counselor for high schoolers, a youth group assistant, a lifeguard, and a challenge course coordinator facilitating teamwork activities.

“I’ve been working in a faith community for quite a while,” said Vickery, whose grandfather was a pastor. He admits to having unusually high standards for pastors’ sermons because of his family history, but says that’s one of the things that made St. John’s a likely place to call home. During a stay in Guttenberg in May, Vickery sat in on Anderson’s services and was impressed by the way the congregation responded to their pastor.

When Vickery visited St. John’s, he immediately felt welcome. “It was one of those things where I walked in and thought, yeah, I could see myself here… People were genuinely interested in getting to know me, and that’s exactly what churches are called to do.”

He was attracted to the community for much the same reason, noting that residents walk the streets with their faces up, saying hello to those they pass. Vickery stayed at Landing 615 in May and watched the sun rise over the river. “That’s what got me,” he said. From the window of his own apartment in Guttenberg, he can see the sun set over the steeples of St. Mary’s. 

Vickery, who plays guitar, trombone, and piano, started college intending to major in music education. He soon found himself transitioning fluidly into youth programming. “I started playing in churches and became the leader of a worship band, where I had youth from my programs in the band with me,” he explained. “Music is a piece of youth ministry to me.”

The new youth and family director grew accustomed to living near water in his home state, where there was also a lock and dam close by. Vickery enjoys rock climbing and swimming, and has already taken a dip in the Guttenberg swimming pool. He plans to attend local youth sporting events and spend time on the river.

Before returning to work to make phone calls setting up recent graduates with campus ministries in their new schools, Vickery told The Press he’s just purchased a hammock – so if you see him hanging around, stop by to chat.  

"The church council was very impressed with John as he has a very strong Christian faith and his humble nature makes him very approachable and easy to talk to.  After interviewing him, the church council thought he would be an excellent fit for our congregation and community," said Anderson.  "John brings a lot to the table that would allow us to expand our ministries and outreach to the youth and their families."

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