Student Today, Community Member Tomorrow: Reagan Kelly

Student Today, Community Member Tomorrow stories look at students and alumni who are impacting the Athens and McMinn County area, both during and after their TWU career.


Reagan Kelly knew what she wanted to do…kind of.


The Johnson City native came to Tennessee Wesleyan University two years ago to major in Church Vocations (now Christian Ministry), a degree that prepares students for the wide variety of work within the church. Though she knew she wanted to be in church ministry, Kelly didn’t know exactly what that looked like.


“I've been a lifelong United Methodist,” said Kelly, “so I've been in delegations and committees, served on youth councils throughout high school. But I came here for the (Church Vocations) program.”


Reagan working at Camp LookoutA requirement of the program is an internship, which Kelly fulfilled in the youth department at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church. After her internship, she served at Camp Lookout in Rising Fawn, Georgia, helping with children at the summer camp that is a ministry of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC).


“It was great, fantastic,” said Kelly of her internship at Keith Memorial. “And then last spring, the Children’s Director position opened up and (Keith UMC Youth Pastor) Mark (Reedy) said, ‘just put in your application and even if you don’t get it, it will be a good experience.’”


“So I figured, what’s it going to hurt?”


The following summer, while focused on her work at Camp Lookout, Kelly got a call for an interview, and the rest, as they say, is history. Kelly now serves as the Director of Children’s Ministry at Keith Memorial UMC, while working on her Church Vocations degree full-time at TWU.

Reagan working at Keith UMC

“I really came to Wesleyan and thought I knew what I wanted to do, but that changed because I realized how many options there are,” said Kelly. “Ministry, you normally think of Sunday morning pastors but that’s not the case. So, when I worked at camp, I loved working with children, figured out that I was good at it and enjoyed it, and so that aspect has prepared me for learning how to work with other people.”


Now Kelly is living, working, and getting educated in her new community, and is excited about the continued adventure.


“Working at Keith (UMC) I’ve gotten to know the community really well,” added Kelly. “I’ve gotten to know people outside of school, which has been really cool, especially for somebody who is not from here. And I have really enjoyed getting to be a part of people's lives, making genuine relationships.”


“I'm really just open to wherever God is calling me. I would have never in a million years guessed I would have worked as a camp counselor last summer, but I did it. I enjoyed it. Right now, I love my children at the church, but I'm definitely open to anything. I would love to work with college kids one day, maybe come back as a professor that would be so fun to do that.”


Reagan teaching a lesson at church“If I didn't have an opportunity to get involved last year, I don't know where I would be, because my church experience got me the job as a camp counselor, then got me my current job, and hopefully is going to continue providing down the line.”


“But I think that would be my one thing is to encourage people, to reach out to ministries all around. There are so many different ministries here in Athens, not just your Sunday morning church, but small groups, homeless warming shelter, ministries that people can get involved in.”