A New England native with family roots in Egypt and an abiding love for mentoring teenagers and young adults has been serving churches since the beginning of this year as leader of next generation youth ministries for the Baptist Churches of New England.
Renee Ghobrial will lead the annual Youth Encountering Christ (YEC) conference, the Quest leadership development missions experience for high school juniors, CrossWalk (CW) summer camp and the CheckPoint fall retreat for youth ministry leaders. She also will consult with church leaders from across the region on youth ministry.
A lifelong resident of the Boston area, Ghobrial came to faith at a young age and is an alumna of every youth ministry and missions experience BCNE offered. Some 20 years ago she attended her first Youth Encountering Christ conference and CrossWalk summer camp.
“I remember having the best time meeting so many other kids my age who were Christians too, and making friends,” she said. “When I went to public school, it felt like I was the only Christian kid in my school, so it was amazing to see hundreds of peers gathering together every winter and summer to worship.”
Challenged to share her faith
Beth Thomas, a youth leader and mentor at Ghobrial’s home church, recommended her for the Quest team that traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2006. Neither realized then how much of an impact that experience would have on Ghobrial’s life.
“I remember being pushed and challenged to share my faith publicly and to be real with my fellow peers,” she said. “I’d never had that experience before. Coming back, I felt like a different person. I was less shy and was excited to jump back into my youth group and share what I’d learned.”
Six years later she traveled as a Quest faculty member to South Africa.
Ghobrial’s grandparents, Hanna and Faiza Ibrahim, and her parents, Sylvia and Ashraf Selim, immigrated from Egypt to Boston in the 1970s. Following in their legacy of faith as the third generation to minister in New England, Ghobrial has spent years leading youth and young adults at Arabic Baptist Church Boston in Newton, where she met her husband, Fady, and where they serve together.
Ghobrial graduated from Boston University in 2011 with plans to pursue a law career, “but I quickly realized that didn’t quite fit my passions and strengths,” she said. “I love working with teenagers and mentoring them,” a realization that led Ghobrial to study at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, and earn a master of mental health and marriage/family counseling degree in 2015.
‘Building new bridges and relationships’
Mental health is “a huge issue for teens right now,” Ghobrial noted. “I’m hoping I can use some of the things I’ve learned to help encourage and equip youth leaders as they work with their students with those issues.
“I’m also looking forward to building new bridges and relationships with youth groups across New England, with new church plants and established churches that have never been involved in BCNE opportunities.”
Now, Ghobrial challenges youth to experience the same genuine life in Christ she had through YEC, CW, Quest and her home church.
“It’s a surreal, full-circle moment to have the opportunity to lead and organize these experiences where students will meet God and grow in their faith, just like I did as a teenager,” she said. “I’m excited for what God has in store for the future.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Dan Nicholas and originally published by Baptist Churches of New England.