Students juggle college and ministry

Jason Montgomery, 21, and Devon Wright, 19, are two young reverends set to make a mark in the Tallahassee Community as serious men of God.

Montgomery, a junior elementary education student at Florida A & M University from Palm Beach, and Wright, a sophomore business management and public relations student at Florida State from Baton Rouge, La., have more than just the title of students.

Members of Bethel Baptist Church, located on 224 North Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Montgomery and Wright are the youngest reverends in their league.

Being black men of God at such a young age, it may be believed that their lifestyle is different. And, in a sense, it is. But, they admit that they are still regular students, just with different responsibilities.

“The Lord called me to preach in 2003. I ran from it a long time,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t want to be a preacher. I wanted to live a life in the way of the world. God stopped me in my tracks and said you got to do rightly for me, and I started studying and ministering in 2005.”

Montgomery, who was licensed and ordained in 2005, looks up to his fellow brother in Christ, Wright, because he has been in the ministry longer than he has been.

“God had not revealed it to me yet until I was 13-years-old,” Wright said. “God dealt with me and spoke to me when I was 14 and I was licensed as a minister. Three years later, I was ordained at 17.”

Having a leadership role in church at such a young age, Montgomery and Wright have endured obstacles in becoming reverends. They have had to prove that they could be reverends and students, and they also had to earn the respect of their church.

“I used to drink and I used to love to drink. I had a taste for alcohol,” Montgomery admits. “And one night, I and my friends were drinking and we got pulled over. That really was the last time I tried to run from God. Everybody in the car went to jail with a DUI except me. I said, Lord, if you just take care of this, I’ll give it to you and I promise I’ll do your will. I haven’t drank since. That was two years ago.”

On the topic of respect, Wright and Montgomery mentioned how they had to overcome the misconceptions that older reverends may have about people their age.

“In my ministry, one of the largest things I had to overcome was respect from older preachers or older members of the church, even some younger members,” Wright said. “It got to a point that some older preachers who may not believe so much in having a younger preacher in their pool pit.”

Montgomery said that the negative images of young people that is seen on television can, at times, taint the image of the younger generation.

“With young preachers, people look at them so negative because they’re young, but accused of running with women or being young and gambling,” Montgomery said. “People see these things and lose their respect in a sense to some young preachers. It’s hard being a young preacher because people look up to you for you to be that beacon.”

Montgomery said that Wright helped him through this tough time.

“Reverend Wright told me last semester that these people don’t have a heaven or hell to put you in, so why are you worried about what they’re saying and the respect,” Montgomery said. “And, I thought about that.”

When it relates to school and the social aspects of living the typical life of a college student, both ministers said it’s a lifestyle change.

“God handles those problems. As they see me living according to Christ, then the respect comes,” Wright said. “Another hurdle, which any young Christian has to go through, but typically with a minister, is how to separate yourself from worldly things. There’s still a certain naivete that comes to being young. There’s still a certain amount of wanting to be adventurous. I have a ministry that’s going to sustain me beyond high school and beyond college and I have to be mindful of that. It’s not boring and tedious. It’s what I live for.”

Wright said that because of his walk with God, he no longer wants for the worldly things that some young people his age feel is necessary in order to have a good time.

“If God takes the taste of certain things out of your mouth, out of your mind and out of your spirit, it just doesn’t appeal to you,” Wright said.

Montgomery said that sometimes it comes down to balancing the two worlds because at times you are under a magnifying glass.

“Other people see what we do and they often times put us on a pedestal,” Montgomery said. “I’ve learned at all times, you have to remain consistent. I can’t live a life in the world and live life in the church because someone is watching me.”

Having a certain standard to maintain and having a leading role in Christ, many would assume that other students easily notice these student reverends. However, Montgomery and Wright don’t tell fellow classmates who they are-they don’t have to.

According to them, it’s highly noticeable. Not by their style of fashion and not by their speech, but through personality and word of mouth.

“Word gets out very quickly,” Montgomery said. “One of my teachers goes to this church. I really don’t go out shouting that I’m a preacher but if you ask me, I’ll tell you.”

Wright also believes that he should not have to talk about his status in the church, but that people should be able to notice it.

“During a class setting, it’s not something that comes up, but there ought to be a certain air about who you are to where I don’t have to go out and broadcast it,” Wright said. “There are on-campus ministries and I might go be a part of and speak to whoever’s leading that and ask if they need any help with developing the teaching or making sure it sounds doctrine based on the bible. Beyond that, I just got to live my life according to the word.”

Compared to other college students, Wright and Montgomery don’t feel any different. Despite all the differences in their lifestyles, compared to other students, one thing remains: They have final exam but later that night they may also deliver a sermon.