MINNEAPOLIS, MN (October 6, 2017) – Covenanter Ginny Olson was presented with the first Rev. Dr. Gary Downing Leadership Award by Youth Leadership (YL) at its fiftieth anniversary dinner on Thursday.
Olson is the director of youth ministry for the Northwest Conference as well as the interim director of Youth Specialties. She’s been involved in youth ministry for several decades on a variety of levels: youth pastor, professor, speaker, consultant, and writer.
She taught in the North Park University Youth Ministry Department from 1995 to 2011, and was co-director and assistant professor at the NPU and North Park Theological Seminary Center for Youth Ministry Studies from 2001 to 2011.
Olson said the award was extra special to her because it is named in honor of a Covenant colleague who taught her first youth ministry class, adolescent counseling.
Downing had been pursuing a nuclear physics degree at the U.S. Naval Academy, but while driving a bus of high school students to a Young Life camp, he suddenly developed a desire to go into youth ministry.
He went on to work for Young Life and then served as pastor at several churches, including two Covenant congregations in Minnesota – Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville and Rochester Covenant Church.
The award was presented by longtime friend and mentor Tiger McLuen. Downing’s widow, Kathy Downing and their children participated in the presentation as well.
The Thursday-evening event also celebrated McLuen, who recently retired as YL executive director, and Eric Iverson, the new executive director.