Q & A with Rev. Steve Patton, Northwest District Superintendent
This is the second in a two-part series that will introduce the new District Superintendents
ADVOCATE: Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
REV. PATTON: I was born and raised in Jesup, Georgia, and graduated from Wayne County High School. When I was in middle school we lived in Philadelphia for two years while my dad completed training as an orthodontist. I spent four years in Atlanta for college and three more in Kentucky for seminary. Other than that, I have always been in South Georgia. Kentucky is where I met Amy. (Unquestionably the best part of going to Kentucky!)
ADVOCATE: What’s your faith journey?
REV. PATTON: I grew up in a Methodist home where Sunday school and church attendance were a part of our weekly routine. However, I never took my faith seriously until I went to college. I knew a little about God, but I did not know Jesus Christ. In high school and early on in college, I totally ignored God and avoided people who took their faith seriously. I was really a “nominal Christian,” one in name only.
But during my second year of college, I began to feel restless and empty. The liberal arts coursework I was engaged in challenged me to think more deeply about life, its meaning, and my purpose. I also began to attend church again with some of my friends. Singing the hymns of my childhood and hearing the scriptures and the communion liturgy read by the pastor had a profound impact on me.
About that same time, the Gideons came to our campus one day and handed out their student edition New Testament and Psalms (with the green cover). I salvaged four copies that had been tossed into the trashcan by my classmates. In secret, I began reading my little green Gideon. The scriptures came alive to me! It was like Jesus speaking to me on every page. There was a prayer to receive Jesus Christ inside the back cover and a place to sign your name. I prayed that prayer every day for two weeks! And then one day I read (or heard someone say), “If you meant it the first time, that was enough!” I knew that Jesus Christ had come into my heart! I knew that I had been saved and changed forever! That was in May, 1981.
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your ministry philosophy and your guiding principles.
REV. PATTON: My ministry philosophy is gift-based, coming from Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and the other scriptures describing the church as a body with many members who have different gifts, but all having something to offer. Being a pastor, preacher, and teacher of God’s word is the motivation for ministry for me.
As for guiding principles, I am inspired by John Wesley, his ambition to be “a man of one book” (the Bible), and his unwavering emphasis on the grace of God.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions, goals, and hopes for the district?
REV. PATTON: It is very early for me to describe my own vision for the district. However, I take seriously the guidance provided by our Bishop who has kept before us a vision of being “Alive Together in Christ.” I was SO excited to see that the theme for this conference year would be “Alive together in Witness.” It is my hope that 2019-2020 will see the Northwest District on fire for Christ as we embody a consistent witness to the grace and truth of Jesus. In doing this, we fulfill His purpose to love others as Christ loves us!
ADVOCATE: What are the things that most excite you about the district and/or the South Georgia Conference?
REV. PATTON: The Northwest District is a great place to serve. Amy and I are excited about returning to a part of the state where we have a combined nine years served in two appointments. Our middle son was born in Americus and our daughter was born in Columbus. The Northwest District is home to some of the most vibrant churches and ministries in our conference. I am excited about learning what God is doing and supporting the ministers and churches of this great district.
ADVOCATE: What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing the Conference or district?
REV. PATTON: Obviously, the decisions and actions related to our stand on human sexuality are a great challenge for our denomination. I am still hopeful that we will be able to find a way for us to move forward that does not sacrifice integrity for the sake of unity. But I hope for even more than just getting the whole sexuality debate “settled.” I hope that we will be able to look back on this time as a period of refining and refocusing that leads to renewal. I hope that this renewal will lead to a church that has a wider and more effective witness to a world that needs to hear the Good News.
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
REV. PATTON: I just love living in South Georgia! We are blessed to have some of God’s most beautiful places on earth, and to have so many of His wonderful people as our neighbors. Our populations are shifting and the demographics are changing, but South Georgia continues to be a place where people want to live. And all of these wonderful people need to know Jesus and His love!
ADVOCATE: The enneagram is hugely popular right now. Do you know your enneagram number? If not, what are you on the Myers-Briggs chart?
REV. PATTON: I took the enneagram test, but I honestly don’t remember my number! My daughter thinks I am a 7, but I believe it was a 6 or a 5. As for Myers-Briggs, I have taken it several times across the years and always fluctuate between extrovert and introvert. Most recently, I am an INFP (58% introverted).
ADVOCATE: Tell us about your family.
REV. PATTON: Amy and I have been married for 33 years. She is a dental hygienist (the best in the world) and enjoys walking four miles a day, cooking, and playing Bunko. Our oldest son, Jordan, is married to Liz. They have two daughters, Emmie (2 ½) and Ella (6 mos.). Liz is an emergency medicine physician and Jordan is starting an ophthalmology practice in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Our son Justin graduated from UGA’s Grady School of Journalism and spent three years as a ministry intern for the UGA Wesley Foundation. He is currently working part-time for the UM Commission on Higher Education and The Mission Society. He will be marrying Brittany on July 27. He lives in Athens where Brittany works at a Christian adoption agency. Our daughter, Hannah, is the youngest, and just finished her first year of law school at UGA. Hannah is working for a law firm this summer in Brunswick. Luke is our Labrador Retriever (Chocolate) who would rather hunt than eat.
ADVOCATE: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?
REV. PATTON: I enjoy hunting and fishing, reading, and watching the Braves. I also bought a kayak recently (for fishing) and have really enjoyed that.
ADVOCATE: What’s one fact about you that most people don’t know?
REV. PATTON: When I have the time for it, I enjoy acrylic and watercolor painting – mostly landscapes, birds, and other wildlife.