Attending seminary is just one step in MC grad’s life journeyDecember 11, 2023

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Lauren Disney standing in McCormick Gallery in the Allison Fine Arts Building on the main MC campus.

Lauren Disney said that when she moved to Midland in 2007 as a young wife, she was very distraught.  Now, she and her husband Justin can’t imagine living anywhere else.

“I grew up in a small town in South Carolina of about 6,000 people—Batesburg-Leesville,” Disney said.  “It’s between Augusta and Columbia, and I hadn’t traveled very far away from home except to visit extended family members.  Justin and I were married in 2003, and we lived in Sumter, South Carolina, for a while and then moved to Statesville, North Carolina, for about a year. Then Justin’s brother Vern asked us to move to Midland so that Justin could help him with managing the smaller oilfield chemical company that he co-founded. The company has continued to expand over the last decade and is now an international company known as Jacam Catalyst.

“When we moved to Midland, I was very lonely and missed my family.  I was hired right away by Girl Scouts to work with their in-school program in local elementary schools.  I started looking for other ways to connect with the community, and my husband suggested that I attend Midland College, which was a big step for me.  Neither of my parents graduated from college.  In fact, my father was a high school dropout and then earned his GED® when I was a little girl.”

Disney said that her decision to attend college was one of the best decisions she ever made because it helped her gain self-confidence.  While at Midland College, she was active in the Student Government Association, helped manage the homecoming parade in 2009, wrote articles for the student newspaper and coordinated a student forum/debate about smoking on campus.  

In May 2009, Disney graduated from Midland College with an Associate of Science degree and transferred to the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB), where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication in 2011.

“Midland College will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said.  “I still keep in touch with some of my professors and advisors. It gave me the desire to continue my education, and once I started college, there was no stopping me.  In 2010 when I had my daughter, I kept going to school, and my daughter Lily was only a few months old when I graduated from UTPB!”

In 2015, when Lily started kindergarten, Disney began working as a teacher’s aide at Bowie Elementary School and was there for several years working in classrooms and helping in the school office and with fine arts productions.

“I did whatever job they needed me to do,” she explained.  “I have always had a passion for working with children and youth.  When Justin and I lived in North Carolina, I started a youth group at the church we attended, and I volunteered every weekend at a local coffee house that was designed to encourage youth with tough home lives to stay off the streets.  That should have been the first clue that youth ministry was my career calling in life.  However, it took me a lot longer to realize it. I also found the Opportunity Tribe organization in Midland after I left teaching and did some volunteering there for several years as a youth mentor.”

Now at 41 years of age, Disney has entered the Center for Youth Ministry Training (CYMT) program at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and will graduate in 2026 with a Master of Arts degree in Youth Ministry.  In addition, she works part time as the Youth Director at First Christian Church in Midland.  Her husband Justin is also attending seminary classes online through Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK.

“In 2021, I started teaching a youth Sunday School class at First Christian Church, which is where our family have been members since 2014,” she recalled.  “Then, I started serving as a sponsor at youth church rallies and other events.  I transitioned to working part-time on staff at the church earlier this year.  I wanted to continue my educational journey at that point and found the CYMT program, which has been a great fit for me.  The classes are offered in a semi-hybrid format that is partially online, and I also travel to Austin once a month for in-person intensives. 

“I have found my career passion in working with youth. I enjoy walking through difficult times as well as celebrations with the teens in my congregation.  I’ve had to learn some boundaries—when to intervene and when to step aside.  My primary mission is to help them understand God’s purpose and love for them so that they can be successful in life.”    

The Disney family has also discovered a passion for world travel.  In 2021, they wanted to go to Israel.  At that time, the Israeli Tourism Department would not allow foreign visitors who did not have the COVID vaccines to enter the country, and their daughter was too young for it.   Instead, one of their local friends connected them with a popular tour guide in Turkey so that they could tour Biblical sites in that country.

“We fell in love with Turkey,” Disney said.  “In fact, we stayed longer than planned because of COVID restrictions and got quarantined in a hotel for two weeks. It was a series of unfortunate events that took place, but that didn’t leave a negative impression with us. We returned to Turkey once again in the summer of 2022 to see more of that beautiful country and some biblical sites that were important to the disciples. Now I can also help create trips for friends who want to see all the sites in Turkey.”

In June of 2024, the family is planning a trip to South Korea with a group from Yongin Lee Taekwondo Studio in Midland, where all three of the Disney family take classes.  Lily is a 2nd-degree black belt, and they are excited to go visit the university that trains their Masters (instructors).  

“I never dreamed the girl who grew up in a little town in South Carolina would live in West Texas, graduate from college, travel to foreign countries, work in youth ministry, attend seminary and learn Taekwondo,” Lauren said.  “Carpe diem! I like to stay busy and live life to the fullest.  God is leading the way – showing me how to be a servant leader – and I enjoy planting seeds of faith so that He can water them.”

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