Rev. Jeff Whitehead
Minister Of Students
Job Involvement: My jobs involve directing and helping teach in the Children’s Ministries and leading Children’s Worship on Sunday mornings. I also get to work with the church choir and drama team. I have the privilege of getting to minister at the hospital and help to meet the needs of some families here in the community. I volunteer at Challenger elementary school. My love for missions in the community and elsewhere often opens up opportunities to lead in mission projects. Some of my favorite ways to do this include construction projects, block parties, and Fall Festival. This summer we plan to do a Mission Project Week in July called "Hope for Huntsville". This will involve over 15 different ministry team leaders and many projects. I look forward to how God will use Hillwood Baptist in the days ahead.
Birthplace and childhood: I was born in Waverly, Iowa. Within months my dad was stationed at Elsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota. By age 4 we had moved to Maryville, Tennessee where I grew up and lived until age 31 when my wife and 1 year old son moved to Fort Worth, Texas to attend Seminary.
Family: I grew up with my mom and dad and 1 sister.
How I came to know Christ: I was blessed to grow up in church. I had heard a lot about Jesus even before I was 5 years old. At age 8, I was truly convicted about my actions toward a transient man who had wandered into church. I had made fun of him and God broke my heart about that. I soon walked the aisle to ask Jesus to forgive me of all my sins and come into my life. That day I was saved.
First Jobs: Around age 12-13, I started mowing yards with my dad and “putting up hay”. That was in the days of the square bales. It was a badge of honor to have hay scratches all over your arms and hands and not come in from the field till after dark.
College: University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth
Marriage: Vicki Maria Hosack on December 29, 1990
Children: 3 boys; Grant – 19, Trey – 17, and Reid – 11
How did you get into ministry? I had been teaching middle school for about 7 years in Knoxville, TN when God finally got through to me that I need to go into full-time Christian Ministry. I was already doing some youth ministry on the side and had many opportunities to minister to the school kids. I had resisted the idea and was looking for a career in industry. I sent lots of resumes without a single reply of any kind. I finally resigned as a teacher 2 years later and headed to Fort Worth for seminary training.
Mission Work: I started doing Mission projects in the 7th grade with the youth group from Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, my home church in Maryville, TN. In college I did many short term mission trips in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Also, there were two trips to “Graffiti Baptist Mission” in New York City with the BSU at Univ. of TN. In my last two summers at college, I did the Summer Missions Program and went to Daytona Beach. The second year I met my wife Vicki for the first time. In seminary I went to Chicago and Miami to work with churches, community ministries and benevolence ministries. In 2002, I went to Guatemala on an amazing mission trip and worked with many impoverished villages where a family dwelling was made of bamboo, twine, cardboard, plastic bags and old car parts. I have loved working with “World Changers” where I have been a Crew Chief for 4 years and also with "Family Fest" Missions in Kentucky last year. I want to see something like Family Fest this year as we have our first "Hope for Huntsville" local missions week. I pray it grows each year and many are saved.
Other places of service: I started out volunteering in the youth ministry when I was a college student. As a teacher, I did extra youth work in the summer and finally took my first staff position as part time Youth Minister at Beech Grove Baptist Church. It was here that God pressed me on to pursue a seminary degree. While in Fort Worth at Seminary I served as a youth leader and was hired as a Community Minister part time at Bethel Baptist. After seminary, I went to work at Whispering Pines Baptist Camp in Citronelle, AL where I was the Assistant Director and Caretaker. This was a multi faceted job where I got to develop programs, direct work groups, lead worship, lead challenge courses, and remodel the camp. My experiences there and my involvement at a local church lead to a full time staff position at First Baptist Citronelle when I left the camp. This proved to be an intense time of testing in my family’s life. God allowed some very hard times with questioning, mistakes, sacrifice and loss. It was like getting out of Seminary was the start of the ‘university of suffering’. For nearly four years this season continued. God did so much to teach us that He is there when everything else, even ministry, falls apart.
In 2003 I moved to Summerland Key, Florida where I went to be full time Youth Minister at Sugarloaf Baptist Church. It was here that I began doing more with the children’s ministry while doing all the normal duties of a youth pastor. God gave me some great opportunities to be involved at the public schools. I was able to teach a class session about Christianity at Key West High School and do some beach preaching. From here God lead me to Huntsville, AL for my first true dual position: Director of the Christian Life Center and Youth Minister at Mountain View Baptist Church. This was my greatest learning experience about the complexity of people, relationships, and the past. Again, this proved to be a real faith test. Here God allowed me to have more exposure to children’s ministry and I loved it! When it was time to leave, I knew that God’s next assignment would be in Children’s Ministry.
When and how did you come to Hillwood Baptist?: I came on staff in August of 2008 as a bi-vocational minister doing part time carpentry work on the side. At the time there were 3 different churches that were looking at me to come on staff but I felt like Hillwood was where I needed to be and so I trusted God to work out the financial part. Within months, God made a way for me to receive a full time salary!
Discuss some turning points in your life: #1 -I was teaching Technology Ed. at Bearden Middle School in Knoxville Tennessee and I started getting asked questions about my faith from students (and teachers). I actually got to lead a few of them to Christ right there at school. I also took a few of the kids that lived in group homes or foster care to some area youth events and could see how hungry they were for Jesus in their lives. God started giving me a desire to minister more than teach school. The rest is history.
#2 - After going through the toughest period in my ministry right after seminary, I went to work as a carpenter and cabinet maker for almost 2 years. I was having opportunities to minister to co-workers and I enjoyed that type of work so I started planning my own cabinet shop business. Shortly after that I can remember God saying to me as if He was speaking in an audible voice: “You’re not doing this. I called you into the ministry and this is not what I had in mind.” From then on I knew that this was just for a period and that when He was ready I’d be on staff at a church once again.
#3 - Here at Hillwood, one of the things that has really stirred me is adult small group teaching times. We will choose a study on discipleship or parenting and set a date - usually a week night and God just does so much to teach us. People are more open and authentic and we see each other with real problems. Everyone is on common ground and walls are broken down for God's healing and wisdom to come into our lives. I think this is something every church needs alot of.
What do you like most about your job: Loving on kids and families and getting to be active. I'm a mover and a doer and love to get my hands dirty. I love getting to be loud and animated trying to teach a bible story and showing passion for my Savior. I so enjoy singing and playing the guitar with little voices of kids backing me up. It is so great when you can see in their eyes how God is moving them and changing them. When they get a little older and start texting me about how to talk to their friends about the Lord and how to minister to a suicidal classmate, that’s when you know they get it! When I visit the same family over and over through a few years and finally they all end up in church - now that's just awesome!
What is your favorite Bible verse? Oh man it’s so hard to pick just one. I love John 16:33 where Jesus encouraged anyone who would follow Him: “I have told you these things, so that in me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I think of the words to an Audio Adrenaline song, “I get down, He lifts me up, I get down, He lifts me up…”
What do you like to do in your free time? I love keeping my feet moving (when I’m not sleep deprived). Taking hikes and jogs and riding bikes with my boys are great. An occasional fishing trip is nice too. Our family loves to camp once or twice a year as well.
If you weren’t a Pastor, what would you be doing? I’d probably be looking for my next ministry. I guess if I had to do anything else it would be carpentry and cabinets but it would have ministry in the middle of it somewhere. I still have a love for Camp Ministry too. If God said I would have to suffer for Him in the mountains somewhere - I could handle that.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn? I won the metalwork division of “The Student Art Show” at the University of Tennessee back in 1987. I made this pretty cool vase with copper and nickel and I also chemically etched an image of a starving child in a plate type wall hanging. The inspiration came from an old song by “Petra” called Hollow Eyes about the many starving children in the world and how Christians need to do something. That’s what I named the piece – "Hollow Eyes". Several years later at a Toby Mac concert, I had this same gnawing at my heart for hurting children. I was compelled to sponsor a precious child from Africa during an intermission presentation by “World Vision”. Her name is Monica and she is the same age as my youngest son. We have watched her grow through pictures and letters and it is such a joy for my family to help her in this small way.