Wonder, discovery and passion are the watchwords that Capri Christian Church's new Student Minister Timothy Gardiner will bring to the church's children and youth programs.
"We want our preschool kids to wonder why the sun shines, why the sky is blue," said Gardiner. "We want our kindergarten through grade five students to discover why God made the sky blue and we want our sixth through 12th graders to have a passion about what they learned."
Born and raised near Grand Rapids, Mich. Gardiner is in the middle of a blended family of 12. Despite his family's size, they are very tight knit and helped foster his passion for ministry. In high school, he formed a deep relationship with his student minister and was moved when he saw lives changed and saw a person become someone they never thought they could be.
He graduated from Kentucky Christian University in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in youth ministry and Biblical studies with a minor in preaching. While at KCU he met his wife Stephanie who also graduated from KCU with a bachelor's degree in nursing and Biblical studies. The couple married in 2010 and Stephanie is currently employed as a nurse in Naples.
While at KCU he served as a part-time youth minister at Central Church of Christ in Portsmouth, Ohio. Upon completing his studies he moved to Southwest Florida where he served as Student Minister at Lehigh Acres Christian Church.
For Gardiner the joy in ministry is seeing lives changed and strangers become family. They built a spiritual family in Lehigh and they look forward to building both a spiritual and their own family at Capri; the couple will welcome their first child Colt Owen Gardiner later this month. Their family currently consists of a dog named Rowdy who definitely lives up to his name and two cats named Mini and Little Cat.
"I love to see people grow in Christ," said Gardiner. He also loves sports and is a fan of the Detroit Lions. If he could have only two channels on his television they would be ESPN and NFL Network. He plans to incorporate his love of sports into his ministry.
Although he does not read for pleasure, he reads to achieve. Books on youth ministry, leadership or biblical studies are his staples. Three current favorites are Andy Stanley's "The Seven Checkpoints for Youth Leaders," Reggie Joiner's "Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide" and John Maxwell's "The Twenty One Irrefutable Laws of Leadership."
His taste in music leans toward David Crowder, Chris Tomlin and Hillsong's contemporary Christian worship music. He also enjoys the alternative Christian rock bands Leeland and Sanctus Real.
His prayer for Capri Christian is to bust the drop-out rate — the majority of 18- to 22-year-olds who stop attending church. He wants students to continue their faith past high school and to live with integrity, to be transparent and intentional.
"Your present will be your past which will be your present in your future," he said paraphrasing Andy Stanley. "What you do now will either hurt your or benefit you in the future."
The Gardiners were introduced to the congregation at the Oct. 14 worship services. Dawn Lenhoff was among those happy to shake his hand. The Lenhoff family was originally attracted to the church because of their strong youth program.
Gardiner fills the void that was left when their last youth pastor sought another ministry. "Everyone that we talked to about Tim spoke highly of his work ethic and his passion for working with students," wrote Steven Dawes, associate pastor/music pastor in an email. "We believe he is a going to be a great fit for us here at Capri as he ministers to the students."
"We've been praying for the right person and the right wife," said Curt Ayers, senior pastor. "We hope they will be here for many years."
"We have prayed for our replacement for a long time and I honestly feel that the Lord has sent us the right person," said Dale Williamson, church elder. "We are just tickled to have him be part of our church family."