OTTUMWA — Moving can be intimidating for some, but not for Pastor Chris Childs.
He was excited to come back to Southeastern Iowa after pastoring Grace United Methodist Church in Marcus, Iowa for five years.
Childs grew up in Oskaloosa. There he met his wife, Melissa, in high school. After high school he married his wife and had a baby girl named Braelyn.
As Childs prepared for adulthood he thought of different career options. He wasn’t set on a decision until one night significantly impacted his life, leading him to become a pastor.
“I was talking to a friend of mine in high school,” he said, “who wanted to end her life. I wasn’t sure what to say or how to help. I wasn’t very religious at the time, but I learned in church that God doesn’t make mistakes, so you can’t be junk. He wouldn’t have died on the cross if he didn’t care about you.”
After Childs spoke those words, his friend was ignited with hope. Childs said after that night, he wanted to become a pastor in order to instill hope into many lives.
Childs attended Asbury Seminary and from there was appointed to Grace United Methodist Church. He pastored there until he was called to serve as pastor for Grace Ottumwa Church. Childs went through a series of assessments and an interview to see if he would be a right fit for the new church. After the assessments and interview, he was appointed.
Although Childs and his family have only been in Ottumwa for a week, he is excited for the opportunity of leading a new church.
“My wife and I are so happy to be a part of this community,” he said. “I was looking at planting a new congregation.”
His wife encouraged him to take the opportunity of leading a new church.
“She’s been a gift to me all the way through,” he said with a smile. “She is so organized. I don’t know how we could have made this move without her. She makes my life so much better, fuller and richer.”
The joys of pastoring for Childs have been getting to know people.
“I love talking to people who believe that God’s done with them,” he said, “to see the look on their face when they realize that God is still pursuing them and God desires a relationship with them and that God’s never walked out on them, even if they walked out on God.”
Childs said other joys of pastoring consisted of officiating weddings and providing marriage counseling. “I’ve done the same thing with funeral services,” he said. “I’ve done as many funeral services and weddings for people that don’t attend a church I’m pastoring. I just want to be a pastor who blesses people.”
Childs has also grasped the concept of having a vision and mission for Grace Ottumwa, pinpointed his preaching style and what characterizes a pastor. He wants Grace Ottumwa to be a church that makes a difference.
“Part of our vision is we want to be a church that grows, serves and loves,” he said. “Those are the three words we are hanging on to guide us. We want to grow in our relationship with Jesus. We want to serve by reaching out to those who are on the margins of our society and those who are in need. We want to love those who feel far from God and disconnected from the church.”
Childs plans on preaching from scripture and identifying application. Childs believes pastors should engage with the congregation often and be lead into ministry.
“Pastors should equip the saints for ministry as said in Ephesians Four,” he said. “When the Bible talks about the saints they aren’t talking about the special few who are declared as saints. The Bible means every single person should put their faith in Christ. God looks at them and calls them a saint, the holy ones. God doesn’t see us as sinners, but saints who sometimes sin. My role as a pastor is to equip the saints to serve.”
Childs said two-thirds of those in Ottumwa do not have a home church. Childs hopes residents will come to Grace Ottumwa or find a church that best fits them. For those who don’t have a home church, Childs encourages those people to ask friends for recommended churches or call a church and ask about their beliefs.
“No matter how distant you feel from God,” Childs said. “Know that God cares about you.”