How long have you been here? May will be seven years. I graduated from Mercer and literally five days later I started. I started as an intern and then the church chose to hire me.
What’s your hometown? Macon. My dad is a pastor, so we moved around some. We moved from Macon to First Baptist Manchester, then Covington First. Now he’s at First Baptist Woodbury.
What’d you major in? Political science. I had a youth ministry intern position at First Baptist Church Gray, Ga., for two years while I was in school. With my dad being a pastor, ministry was never far from my mind. I also worked on the summer staff for two years with World Changers. So youth ministry and missions have been my focus. Jimmy (Elder, First Baptist pastor) called me in the spring of ’04. He and my dad were friends, so I already knew him. That relationship has always been important for me. He’s always been very supportive, and a great leader to work with and learn from.
When did you get married? October 2009. I had just finished seminary at McAfee. My wife’s family is from Columbus. She’s Sara Powell Strozier. She works at the Chamber of Commerce in economic development. She’s the most important person in my life and a partner in ministry.
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Talk about your youth program. After I was ordained (last November), I became the college and youth minister. With the length of time I’ve been here, we’re in a stable, growing mode. My better ability is building relationships. It’s a passion to encourage these kids. In the college ministry, there’s a CSU group that meets at 9 o’clock Mondays at our church called “Life With a Purpose.” We’re trying to link to the downtown CSU students in our neighborhood. I’m also involved with the Baptist Student Ministry on the main campus.
Were you in a youth group yourself? I was. My youth minister was Joey Fennell, who’s in Statesboro. He’s now a Christian counselor. In June we’re hosting Kingdom Builders. Church groups from the state and around Columbus will be involved. Joey is the executive director; and Jonathan and Lisa Moore will lead worship. It’s June 19-25. We’ll join work crews doing roofing, painting, kids’ camps and visiting nursing homes. With missions as a focus, we took a group last summer to Statesboro for Kingdom Builders, and then we took juniors and seniors to the Ricks Institute in Liberia, West Africa.
Do you see yourself having a pulpit one day, like your dad? When I consider my future, I fall back on prayerful consideration. Prayer is important in seeking direction in my life. I trust that process. I feel called to First Baptist and the ministries here. Before I came, there were a couple of youth ministers who were short-term. Now we have some consistency. I’m open to whatever God would have for me, but I like it here. The church family is very important. The level of support here, and being able to grow and learn, all fits together.
Do you have any spare time? I love sports. I’m a sports fanatic. I love playing, and following. I’m a huge Braves and Bulldogs fan. My wife and I travel some. Next year we’re going with the church on a trip, following Paul’s missionary journey. We’ll go to the Grecian Isles and Rome.
Where do most of your youth group kids go to school? Most are at Columbus High; we have a very strong middle school group, too, and most of them go to Richards and Blackmon Road. We have Bible study every Thursday morning at 7 for the high-schoolers and 7:45 for the middle-schoolers, at Chick-fil-A on Wynnton Road. Then we take the middle-schoolers to school.
Is there a scriptural focus for your ministry? Right now we’re focusing on Ephesians 4:1-3. Through this focus, we’re trying to open the eyes of our students to see their opportunities for Christian service and leadership in the world around them. Imagine teenagers who strive to find ways to encourage and love, instead of waiting for opportunities to fall in their lap.