September 2016: Michael Gittins
Major transitions are never easy, and sometimes they mean difficult goodbyes coupled with brand new beginnings. Michael Gittins (’07) recently transitioned from being an associate/youth pastor in Iowa to a senior pastor in Minnesota. Though leaving his ministry in Iowa has been difficult, God has blessed him with this new ministry in Minnesota.
Michael intended to come to Faith for the one-year Bible program before transferring elsewhere after his freshman year. The summer before attending Faith, Michael attended a Christian camp where God used a chapel service to change his plans—God was calling him into pastoral ministry. “I showed up at Faith for freshman orientation and changed my major on the spot from a one-year Bible degree to a four-year pastoral degree,” Michael explained.
Michael graduated in 2007 with a Pastoral Training degree and in 2010 with an M.Div degree. While in seminary, he began dating Julie (’13 Hemmings), whom he had worked with for two summers at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp. In 2011, while on a church missions trip, Michael proposed to Julie on the beaches of South Africa, and they were married in December of that year.
For about eight years Michael worked under Dr. Paul Hartog at Maranatha Baptist Church in Grimes, Iowa. Dr. Paul was the associate/youth pastor at the time, and those years helped further prepare Michael for his future ministry.
“It was the best ‘internship’ I could ever have asked for,” Michael explained. “I learned much about ministry in those years, and I am incredibly thankful for the hands-on training and example.”
When Dr. Paul resigned from the associate/youth pastor position in 2013, Michael served as the interim until the church voted for him to become the permanent associate/youth pastor in January of 2014.
“The absolute best part about being a youth pastor is that you get to work with some pretty amazing youth leaders, teens, and their families. We had the best teens in the entire world, and I’ll fight anyone over that statement,” Michael added with a smile. “In the end, the teens became much more than ‘youth group members’–they were our friends and really like family to us.”
When the Gittins accepted the position at Maranatha Baptist Church, they told the church family their long-term plans to move into a senior pastorate position eventually. After more than a year of working with the Maranatha youth, Michael and Julie believed it was God’s timing to begin searching for a senior pastorate. They had been sending out resumes for several months when a fellow pastor friend in Wisconsin asked to hand Michael’s resume to a church in Chatfield, Minnesota.
“I told my friend he could, though I thought to myself it wouldn’t do any good because I wasn’t planning to move out of Iowa. I got a call from the deacons to come speak at Calvary Baptist Church, and we agreed to go as ‘pulpit supply only.’ We returned as a potential candidate and then one more time as a candidate. The church voted in late November to ask me to come and be the next pastor. By that time we were absolutely convinced that this was God’s plan for us.”
Now that Michael and Julie have settled down at Calvary Baptist Church in Chatfield, they have particularly enjoyed opportunities to have the church family over to their home for games, meals, and socializing. Although it was hard leaving Maranatha Baptist Church, “following God and trusting His plan for your life is the greatest joy you can ever experience.” Michael asks prayer for guidance as he leads the church in following Christ, especially in the area of evangelism.