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Hands-On Ministry Experience at SEU Network Sites — JJ Hernandez

JJ Hernandez Ministry

So, is an SEU Network Site worth it? 

“It really is!” JJ said. “If you feel a call to work in some form of ministry, an SEU partner site is the way to go,” he said. “You’re not just watching — you’re being given the chance to lead, to participate in hands-on ministry, and to help build the local church while earning your degree.” 

Do you feel called into ministry and also want to earn a college degree? Meet JJ Hernandez, who four years ago discovered he had the same calling, and found a way to do both. JJ was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and when he graduated high school, he knew he wanted both hands-on ministry experience and a formal education. 

Since he was from Miami, he knew about a local church called VOUS and heard about their college program. That’s when he discovered that VOUS College is an SEU Partner Site, which is part of the SEU Network. SEU partners with churches and organizations to bring university learning into a practical ministry setting. The program at VOUS was everything JJ had been looking for and the step after graduation he had dreamed of. He was also thankful for the affordable tuition, and that as a Florida resident, he was also able to use the Bright Futures scholarship he earned in high school. 

Choosing a Track

When JJ first started his application process for VOUS College, one of the requirements was to select the ministry tracks he wanted to experience. These tracks qualify for practicum credit since a track at VOUS is an opportunity for hands-on experience in programs such as kids’ ministry, youth ministry, worship, operations, or production. For JJ’s first semester, he applied for operations and production and was chosen for operations. “I loved it,” he said. “It was very logistical and a lot of strategizing.” 

Then, for his second semester, he decided to experience a different aspect of ministry and asked to change his track to VOUS High (VH), which is the church’s ministry for middle and high school students. 

Equipped to Lead

As JJ served with VOUS High, he realized the Lord had actively shown him that was the space where he belonged, so he decided to stay on that track for his three remaining years. “Being able to see how the Lord was working in those students moved my own heart,” he said. JJ used his previously acquired skills in operations to oversee VH events. JJ and his team were in charge of creating welcoming student spaces for youth services and Sunday experiences. He was also a leader for students across Miami in biweekly small groups. “It’s been cool because pastors lead people of all ages, and I’ve gotten to do that.” 

Although JJ is not a full-time pastor yet, he believes his time at VOUS has equipped him to be one. His leadership has been molded through his VH involvement and the classes he took through SEU and with the VOUS staff.

Two classes in particular were game-changers for JJ. The first class was Leading Team-Driven Organizations. This class is taught by Jefferson Bullock, the Operations and Location Development Coordinator at VOUS, who is also an MA in Leadership alumnus of SEU.  The class taught students how to improve as leaders by reflecting on scenarios that happened to them throughout the week. “It was great because they made it very practical for us, which allowed us to apply the feedback we received the next time we led an event,” he said. 

The other class he took was called The Tension, led by one of the Lead Pastors of VOUS, DawnChere (DC) Wilkerson. Pastor DC discusses how to manage the tensions of life, ministry, and family. Throughout the class, students read multiple theological books and then had discussion days. “Being able to be in that room and learn from Pastor DC — someone who’s been in ministry for so long and is an amazing communicator and leader — was a really good experience,” he said.

Weekly Schedule

One of the things JJ liked the most about his school schedule was that every day was different! While every SEU partner site has its own weekly schedule, seeing the schedule of students at VOUS College is a great way to preview what each week includes at many sites. 

Sundays — Students begin their week on Sundays, which they refer to as Slam Sundays. These consist of serving half the day in their tracks and the church services. 

Mondays — Known by the students as Meeting Mondays, this day is filled with gatherings with leaders and students to encourage and collaborate. The rest of the day consists of online and in-person classes, as well as getting homework done. They finish their day with College Connect, where they sit down to discuss the agenda for the week with their leaders.   

Tuesdays — Referred to as Tackle Tuesdays, students start this day off by attending or organizing a chapel service at one of the locations VOUS has in the area. Next students have The Tension class with Pastor DC. To conclude the day, students attend their track meetings. Track meetings give the teams a chance to discuss the past Sunday’s services and ways to improve them the following week.  

Wednesdays — VOUS College uses Wednesdays and Fridays as a rest day for their students, allowing them to reflect on their studies, explore Miami, engage with the community, catch up on their classwork, or work at a job. (JJ made the most out of his SEU Network Site experience by living at home and working a part-time job on his days off of class.)  

Thursdays — VOUS College students finish their school week by meeting on Thursdays for Think-A-Lot Thursdays. They begin their mornings with Bootcamp, which is a time for students to work out together and reminds them that hard things can be accomplished together within a community. After their workout, they reconvene in the afternoon to complete their SEU classes. VOUS offers face-to-face classes or online classes depending on the students’ needs. To finish off the day, students attend their track meetings to get prepared for the Sunday services.

Fridays — Similar to Wednesdays, students can use this day to rest, recharge, work, and catch up.

Is It Worth It? 

So, is an SEU Network Site worth it? 

“It really is!” JJ said. “If you feel a call to work in some form of ministry, an SEU partner site is the way to go,” he said. “You’re not just watching — you’re being given the chance to lead, to participate in hands-on ministry, and to help build the local church while earning your degree.” 

As JJ’s time at VOUS College came to a close, it was time for him to start thinking about what was next. While JJ is sad his college experience is over, he’s grateful he’s leaving equipped for the next step in which God has called him. He knows that the experience he gained from leading in many different areas at VOUS, and his bachelor’s degree in Ministerial Leadership from SEU, have given him the tools he needs.

“VOUS is always going to be family no matter what. It wasn’t just my school, but my church too. And it’s the people that I do life with,” he said, “And now, I do feel equipped. VOUS allowed me to take steps in the right direction.” 

By the end of this summer, JJ will be heading out to Low Country Community Church in Bluffton, South Carolina, to work in their youth ministry department and apply the leadership skills he gained in VOUS High. He will stay there through the end of 2024. “From there, I will see where the Lord wants to take me.”  

By Alexa Estevez, SEU Student

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