Julie Girards celebrates 15 years on Wilshire staff
Minister to Children Julie Girards is marking 15 years as a Wilshire staffer on August 15. She will be recognized during the worship service on Sunday, August 16.
“I love working with kids and getting to see how God creates each of them as an individual,” Julie says. “And I hope I can be part of them understanding that God loves them just the way God created them. God created them to be exactly who they are and that’s who they’re supposed to be.”
Senior Pastor George Mason says, “Julie makes sure that kids have the right balance between structure and freedom, seeing to it that they learn the basics of the faith along with having fun in the process. She honors the way God works in each child’s life individually, not rushing their faith development or neglecting it, but rather nurturing it along with parents and teachers to help them form a good faith foundation.”
Associate Pastor Darren DeMent adds, “I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Julie as both a coworker and a parent. As a parent, I appreciated that Julie never talked down to kids but was able to find a way to convey theological truths in an age-appropriate manner. As student minister, I knew that rising 7th graders were coming into the youth group with a good foundation and were in a good place to begin the work of making their faith their own.”
Before working at the church, Julie was a longtime Wilshire member, joining in 1989 and raising her three kids, Jessica, James and Jason, here. She was ordained as a deacon and helped found Wilshire’s Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group.
Her first job at Wilshire was as receptionist at a time when she was considering a return to school to pursue a master’s degree. When the children’s minister position opened up, Julie — an experienced classroom teacher — was asked to take the job on an interim basis. She immediately felt at home in the role. “It was like, oh my gosh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” she recalls. “It was almost like someone voiced to me: this is where you’re supposed to be.” She decided to apply and won the job on a permanent basis in 2007. She earned a master’s degree in counseling in 2012.
Julie oversees all programming for kids in grades 1 through 6, including Sunday School, Wednesday missions classes, special events and annual summer activities like Vacation Bible School and preteen camp. “My favorite thing is preteen camp,” she says. “That’s when I get to be with the kids one-on-one and see them blossom outside their normal context.” She cites cooking camp and the children’s worship folder as two successful initiatives launched during her tenure.
Julie reports that 2020 has been the most challenging year of her career due to the coronavirus. “It’s hard to make a difference in a kid’s life when you can’t be with them,” she says. Nevertheless, the children’s ministry is staying in touch and providing families with resources like activity sheets and a kids’ worship bulletin to go along with the Sunday service. Most Sunday evenings Julie hosts a Zoom call for kids that has featured a scavenger hunt, a show-and-tell event and a painting activity.
Of working at Wilshire, Julie says “I like the way we’re collaborative. We all have the same goal.” As someone who raised her own kids here, she appreciates how Wilshire includes children in its everyday life. “We include kids in missions, service, worship … in everything.”
George Mason says, “Julie understands that children’s ministry is intergenerational work. She brings diverse adults together to love and teach and care for school-age children. Anyone who has said yes to Julie to work with children will tell you how hard it is to say no. She loves her work and believes our children deserve the best we can give them.”
Julie says her ministry is about building personal relationships: “I tell teachers, ‘I don’t want you to fill a spot. I want you to see this as an area where you can build a relationship and change the life of a child.’ ”
“I could not do this without all the teachers and parents. It’s not me. It’s them. I want to come alongside them and help them do their jobs.”
You can drop Julie a note of gratitude and congratulations at email@example.com.