Tobias Turney didn’t, at first, relish the possibility that God was calling him to the ministry.
“I told you I didn’t want to be in ministry,” Tobias, now 22, recalled telling God in 2014. “Don’t make me do that.”
Nearly 4 1/2 years later, Turney said he is “thrilled” to be where God wants him: as the first-ever full time youth and children’s pastor at Cavalry Baptist Church in Brownwood.
Turney, who entered Howard Payne University with the idea of becoming a coach and English teacher, instead graduated in December 2018 with a master’s degree in theology and ministry.
Earlier this month, the Calvary congregation unanimously voted to hire Turney as children’s and youth minister. The vote was Feb. 3, and Turney’s first Sunday in his new position was Feb. 10.
It was a big step for a church with only a handful of children and youth, but the church is looking ahead, anticipating a growth in those numbers.
Hiring Turney was made possible by a large donation given for that purpose, pastor Artie Woodcox said.
“The individuals who gave it realized the need to really have somebody here for the students,” Woodcox said. “In the past, the church has had part-time college students who would fill in.
“There’s just a real need that we had here. We are building, from the ground up, the children and youth ministry. We were fortunate enough to have some money that was given that could take care of the situation for a few years. You get the right person in there — and obviously we believe we’ve done that — then what you’ll find is, that ministry area will grow.”
Turney is a Stephenville native who graduated from Hico High School, where he participated in four sports. Turney said he’s not discouraged by the small number of children and youth at Calvary Baptist Church.
“I’m thrilled to be where God wants me to be,” Turney said. “I don’t view (the small number) negatively at all. The Lord had 12. He focused on his three. It’s my responsibility to shepherd them, disciple them to maturity.”
Turney wasn’t a Christian when, as a boy, he was taken to church by his great-grandmother. Turney quit church for awhile after his great-grandmother died, then started going back with some friends as an eighth-grader — to eat the food that was offered at the church, and then leave before the end of the service.
When transportation home became an issue, church leaders told Turney he could get rides home in the church van — but the caveat was, he had to stay for the entire service.
Turney agreed, and later became a Christian.
Turney entered HPU as a football player, but he was injured in a pre-season practice. He figured he would use his platform as a coach later in life as “my way to tell people about Jesus.”
That changed when Turney attended a Fields of Faith event at Gordon Wood Stadium on Oct.9, 2014. HPU students attended to help with the event, and Turney attended at the invitation of friends from HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry.
That was the night Turney found himself arguing with God — and losing. “If ministry is what you’re calling me to, I’ll do it, but I’m terrified,” Turney told God.
Two days later, Turney changed his major to youth ministry. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in youth ministry, Turney began working on a master’s degree.
While completing the graduate degree, Turney interned as a student leader at a church in Katy. After finishing his master’s degree, Turney sent out resumes.
Three churches responded, including Calvary Baptist.
Turney had excellent references, and Woodcox and Turney met for coffee at Common Grounds. Later, Calvary’s search committee interviewed Turney by Skype.
The committee invited Turney to a “meet-and-greet” on a Saturday, and at the Sunday service the next day, the church voted to hire him.
Turney said his ministry to youth and children starts with building relationships. “I can’t just hit them over the head with a Bible and expect them to believe everything I’m telling them,” Turney said.
Woodcox said that’s the biblical model — “you build relationships with them, pointing them to Jesus and doing life,” Woodcox said.
The church wanted a shepherd, not a hireling, Woodcox said. “Success if biblically defined as faithfulness,” he said.