Desire to grow ministry for college students leads to change in career path

For Hannah Silvey, passion drives her actions as Young Life College director at the University of Missouri. Through her own experience of being changed by the gospel, she has developed a desire to share the thing she believes in the most.

Young Life is a gospel-based ministry for high school students that focuses on building relationships. Young Life College provides a similar experience for college students. Silvey explained that in Young Life College, leaders strive to earn the right to share their beliefs with the students in a way that is fun and approachable.

At MU, Young Life College is a relatively new organization. It started just two years ago and has continued to grow under the direction of Silvey. It hosts around 60 students for worship in Memorial Student Union each week.

Directing Young Life College at MU is special to Silvey. Her first appearance on Young Life’s payroll was when she was a student at MU. Although she wanted to pursue a career in nursing, Silvey was trying to come up with a way to combine her relationship with Jesus with her future career. Serving as a volunteer leader at Helias Catholic School in Jefferson City, Missouri, began to fill that desire.

Eventually, Silvey was offered a part-time position as a member of the Young Life student staff. This position changed her vision for the future.

“It was clear that I cared for people and I wanted to work with them, but it was going to look different than I originally intended,” Silvey said.

Throughout her transition from nursing to her pursuit of ministry, Silvey had the opportunity to look to Luke Neal, area director for Columbia Young Life, for guidance. At the time, their work together existed in an unofficial capacity as they led high school students alongside each other. To Neal, Silvey was a babysitter, roommate and friend. Today, the two are still friends, and they are now coworkers. According to Neal, having an office-mate and partner in ministry has been a blessing.

“She loves people well,” Neal said. “She is really in the hard stuff with people – the mess and the brokenness in their personal lives.”

For Silvey, being intentional in interactions with students is one of her favorite parts of her job. Whether it is dropping everything to meet someone for coffee downtown or waking up early to spend Friday mornings with college-age women, she makes it a goal to make people feel needed. For Silvey, this is the version of ministry that she likes best.

“We get to share the gospel of Jesus in a way that is different from other college ministries,” Silvey said.

MU student Madison Ferrier first met Silvey when they were paired together in Ferrier’s kindergarten mentorship program. They later re-connected when Ferrier was in high school and Silvey served as her Young Life leader. Now, Silvey is not only a part of Ferrier’s journey in Young Life College, but the two consider themselves friends. For Ferrier, the consistency in their relationship has been a key part in her journey.

“She’s always been there,” Ferrier said. “She’s pretty much the only constant I’ve had in my life.”

For Silvey, building relationships with people like Ferrier is the ultimate reward. Silvey plans on continuing to pursue people-oriented ministry to ensure that Young Life College continues to grow. She hopes to allow people to feel celebrated for their gifts and talents and to know that they are needed.

“I want to make an impact that will outlive me for something that is much bigger than I am,” Silvey said.