Dan Pratt, the former student ministry coordinator for First Baptist Elizabethton, will be in town this week, returning “some of the love I felt when I lived there.”
And he isn’t coming alone.
Pratt will be leading a mission team from his current church, lifechurch, from Canton, Mich. The team of 36 youth and 10 adults will be doing volunteer repair work on The Shepherd’s Inn, The East Tennessee Christian Home and three individual residences.
“We’ll be doing whatever we can and giving back to the community that gave me so much for so many years,” Pratt said.
He was also the speaker at First Baptist’s Sunday morning service on June 30.|
The mission team’s logo — a dandelion with seeds flying out — illustrates the group’s theme for the week — “Scatter.”
“We’re basing our theme on a reference to Matthew Chapter 13 and several other scriptures where Matthew talks about the kingdom of God being like field,” Pratt said. “This mission trip is all about how it’s our job is to show up and to sow these seeds everywhere we go.”
Sometimes explaining to parents and students why mission trips can be so important can be a little difficult, he added. “A lot of people ask me, why do you go on mission trips, there’s plenty we can do here?”
“I try to explain that it’s really important to teach students what it means to serve and to love people — total strangers — and to give yourself away. For most teenagers, it is the first week of their life that it’s not about them. It makes a pretty big impact.”
Pratt, a native of Michigan, seems to have come full circle in his ministry. “I guess First Baptist Church Elizabethton and Pastor Brent Seals saw some potential in me,” he said. “They allowed me the privilege of serving as a full-time student ministry coordinator for eight years beginning in 1998.”
While serving at FBC, Pratt was a popular member of the community and well known to hundreds of area students. He served as a “coach” for other youth ministers, led devotions as the “rev” for the Elizabethton High School basketball team and was named “Staff Person of the Year” by the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 2004.
In 2005, God called Pratt to Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Statesboro, Ga., where he served as Pastor to Students at Eastern Heights for five years.
While in Statesboro, Pratt was involved with the Baptist Collegiate Ministries on the Georgia Southern University campus, continued his role as a coach for young youth pastors and was the Statesboro High School Blue Devil mascot for three years.
Then, Pratt says, God moved him back to Michigan.
For the past three years, he has served as Pastor to Students at lifechurch, a rapidly growing Evangelical Covenant church plant in the suburbs of Detroit. The 10-year-old church has grown from 20 people to an average weekly attendance of 1,200.
Pratt and his wife of 24 years, Pam, moved to Canton in 2010 where they now reside.
His ministry still includes serving as coach to other youth pastors and has evolved to include mentoring youth ministry interns and the 50 youth ministry volunteers who serve beside him weekly ministering to 200 teenagers.
When he has time off, Pratt spends his spare moments communicating with his three children, who all live far away. His daughter, Brittany, teaches high school in Nashville; his oldest son, Jordan, teaches at the University of Texas in Arlington; and Elias, the youngest, serves as a combat medic in Afghanistan via El Paso, Texas.
Pratt’s love of young people drives his passion for ministry. He has participated in the lives of hundreds of teens, watching their ballgames and dance recitals, baptizing them, performing their marriage ceremonies, laughing with them, crying with them and changing their lives forever.
For these students and for First Baptist Elizabethton, Pratt says he is grateful for the opportunity to return to the community to give back.
“You know, I’ve had this Bible a long time and I write in the front of it every time I do a baptism or a wedding,” he said. “It’s a long list.
“I keep thinking that this list wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for First Baptist in Elizabethton. That church believed in me when nobody else did. It’s crazy to think how it all started. It’s just sort of surreal.”
Pratt invites young people throughout the community to come and meet the mission team and worship with them on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. in the youth room at First Baptist. Brad Barrick from Elizabethton Alliance Church will be speaking each evening. “We would especially invite everyone to come on Friday night, our last worship service,” Pratt said.
“It will be interesting to see how our students from a suburb of Detroit adjust to East Tennessee,” he added. “I think they will love it. After all, what’s not to love?”
Most of the students in the group have never been on a mission trip, Pratt said, and many have never been out of Michigan.
“Those are my favorite kind of kids to take on a trip like this,” Pratt said. “It will be a great experience for them, a great shot in the arm for First Baptist and for the community. I’m just so excited to be bringing them to Elizabethton.”
First Baptist Church is located at 212 East F Street in Elizabethton. For more information, call 543-1931 or visit fbcelizabethton.com.