My very first impression of him?
I’ll never forget meeting our youth pastor Chad Ward for the very first time. Michelle and I were flown out to northern California the summer of 2004 for our ‘try-out weekend’. We were driven directly from the Sacramento Airport to a gathering of church folks waiting to greet us, feed us and sweetly interrogate us. Chad was one of those people. He had come to the reception directly from his part-time job as an elephant trainer at (then) Marine World. As I shook his hand vigorously, a certain unmistakable scent rose from his uniform and permeated our meeting. Elephants never forget; and I’ll never forget meeting this kind and gregarious young man for the first time. Though a bit pungent at the very beginning, my impressions of Chad Ward have only grown sweeter over the years.
Throughout our time serving the Lord together, I have continued to grow in my love, admiration and appreciation for Chad. He is a deeply dedicated family man who loves God with the entirety of his heart. Long before FCC heard of this Florida boy, Chad and his wife Michela were serving faithfully here. In our tenure together, he has shown me continually that he is devoted to the young people of this congregation and its mission. Repeatedly he and his family have selflessly reached out to people in need with the kindness of Christ, without announcing it with trumpet blasts. Their humble consistency has inspired many and has made an indelible and immeasurable impact. For years he has taught and led students in fun and creative ways toward lives of devotion to Jesus Christ. Believe me, behind his contagious playfulness is a heart of steadfast dedication.
During the last year, Chad has been presented with many harsh and daunting personal challenges; things that would test the most faithful among us. Yet, Chad has persevered, and overcome, never letting go of God’s guiding hand; and in the process, setting a rich example for the church he so dearly loves.
Chad recently asked us as elders to find a replacement for him, so that he might dedicate himself more fully to his dear young family. So, we have been prayerfully seeking the Lord as church leaders to direct us into the next chapter of youth ministry here at FCC. We believe that there is someone even more dedicated to students here in the church - the Lord Himself. He will faithfully direct us in a way that will keep Chad’s dream for teens alive. In that we’re supremely confident.
Much to our joy, the Ward family will continue to worship and serve the Lord with us here at FCC. We’ll continue to utilize Chad’s passion, giftedness and experienced insight not only for the youth, but for the continued health of the Body.
So, to Chad, Michela, Noah, Naomi and Jonah, a grateful congregation says, “Thank you”, “We love you” and “Well done!” Your service has left a sweet scent.