Q&A with Allison Hawkins
Member Type: Associate
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have an eclectic resume. Before becoming involved in youth ministry, I worked as an IT professional, a commercial talent agent’s assistant and contract manager, an archival assistant at Amblin Entertainment, a freelance writer and editor, and a private tutor. These have all been fine by me, though, since I love to learn new things! I like to explore new concepts and take in new information, and my personal book collection ranging from classic Greek texts to modern children’s literature surprises no one.
I love stories and storytelling, and I have a degree in English and Film with a focus in screenwriting. When I’m not serving my parish as the youth minister, I’m busy writing short stories, screenplays, chapters of an ongoing novel, or flash fiction. You might also find me hiking, bouldering, or practicing Uechi Ryu karate. If I’m not feeling active, I’m probably watching indie movies or Japanese anime.
I am blessed to serve in juvenile detention—a ministry I’m particularly passionate about. I also serve as a lector, Eucharistic Minister, and cantor. Singing is my favorite form of prayer, rivaled only with spending quality silent time with the Lord in Adoration.
How has being a member of NFCYM helped you and your ministry to young people?
Being able to connect with and learn from other youth ministers has been invaluable. Some of the topics that we’ve covered were ones that I wouldn’t have thought to explore myself, and it’s been great to get insight from other youth ministers regarding strategies and events that have worked in their parishes. Hearing the stories and lived experiences of other ministers, I feel like I come away from each conversation equipped with new and useful tools for ministering to the young people in my parish and in juvenile detention.
What is your relationship with NFCYM? What does accompaniment mean to you and how has NFCYM accompanied you?
I am a participating associate member of NFCYM, and I believe that NFCYM has accompanied me throughout the last year of youth ministry. I’ve always felt that accompaniment is primarily about actively listening and holding space for others. It’s about giving others the freedom to figure out their own path while simultaneously being present and willing to offer guidance—often in the form of sharing experiences. NFCYM’s offerings—particularly webinars and small group conversations—provides excellent accompaniment. I have often felt comfortable sharing frustrations in ministry with my fellow NFCYM members and facilitators, and that is only possible because of the space that NFCYM creates. It is also due to this space, the practices of active listening, and the sharing of ministry experiences that I have found solutions to many of the problems I’ve encountered over the past year.
Why ministry? Why do you do what you do?
Ministry is a calling, one which I would never have considered had it not been for God’s very obvious signs and signals. When I moved back to my hometown of Grand Rapids in 2017, I knew that I wanted to move from the corporate to the non-profit sector. I’ve always loved working with young people, and I was looking to find a job where I could do that more frequently. About two weeks after I was settled in town, the youth minister at my old home parish announced that he was leaving in the parish bulletin. Upon reading it, I felt something shift, and I remember clearly saying to myself: I think I’m supposed to do that.
After some additional prayer and discernment, it became obvious that this was where I was supposed to be. As followers of Christ, we are not meant for this world. But like it or not, we live in the world. I think one of the most pressing questions for young people today, whether they recognize it or not, is: how can a Christian, particularly a Catholic, operate in a society that increasingly sees the Church as old-fashioned and irrelevant? As someone who thoroughly enjoys and has worked in fields that rely on pop culture, I think it’s important to show young people how their faith is not just relevant, but integral to living a life that is full and wholehearted. This involves providing them not only with Church teaching and tradition, but practical applications and ways to navigate the world. I have a commitment to showing young people not how Catholicism can “fit into” their lives, but how it can grow and enrich their lives.
What are some unique ways you have ministered and accompanied through these times?
Social media—particularly Instagram—has been a useful tool for reaching out to my kids when we haven’t been able to meet in person. Checking in on a regular basis and sending physical cards in the mail has also been helpful. These times, uncertain as they were, actually allowed me to grow in many relationships with the young people in my parish and in juvenile detention because we were able to have conversations outside of a traditional “classroom” setting. As a staff, we were able to better minister and accompany our young people by focusing on where these young people were at and how they were feeling week to week rather than focusing on education and activity-based ministry, and I feel that has been very fruitful overall.
If you could share one thing with other ministers, parents, families, and clergy, that you have learned throughout your experience ministering what would it be?
Be genuine above all else. You do not need to be perfect to reach young people, but you do need to be authentically yourself. If that means sacrificing some of your own pride by apologizing or giving an honest answer of “I don’t know,” do it. Young people will value your willingness to be present, vulnerable, and human more than they will value your knowledge or expertise.
NFCYM Members can ask me about…
Working with the unchurched, atheism/agnosticism, juvenile detention ministry, apologetics, secular culture, technology, Christianity in media
Anything else you want to mention?
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! I appreciate everything that NFCYM does for youth ministry!