From Bus Rider To Children’s Pastor

How did you become a Christian?
In 1969, Ruth Anderson and Kathy Stafford knocked on our door. They were two ladies involved in the bus ministry, and they asked my sister and me if we would like to go to church on Sunday morning. No one in our family was a Christian, but my mom saw this as a great babysitting service. So every Sunday morning she would put us on the bus.

I loved the faithfulness of Kathy and Ruth. They showed up every Saturday morning and said, “Now you’re going to be on the bus tomorrow, right?”

When I was 12 and my sister was 9, we started riding the bus to Plant City Church of God. I kept riding the bus until I was able to drive. Once I got my first car at 16, I started driving my sister and myself to church.

One Saturday evening when I was 16, our church partnered with Westside Baptist for a movie night. We watched A Thief in the Night. Five of us—some of my close friends and I—all went down to the altar and accepted Christ.

At that time, nobody else in my family knew the Lord. Eventually, my mom accepted Christ. My dad died 20 years ago, but not before he accepted the Lord. I preached my grandmother’s funeral, my aunt’s funeral, and both of my uncles’ funerals. I led them all to the Lord before they passed away.

So when you see people like Kathy and Ruth knocking on doors and men driving church buses, you may not see the fruit for many years. But they planted that seed in me and were responsible for me and my family knowing the Lord.

My wife, Billie Jo, is a Christian, and all four of our children are Christians. We have nine grandchildren, and they all come to our church and know the Lord. It is amazing to see how this has trickled down.

How were you called into the ministry?
When I was 21, I started running from the Lord. For about two years I ran from Him and got involved with some bad people. I quit coming to church and reading my Bible. I messed with drugs and alcohol and did some other things I’m not proud of.

One day I had done some drugs and thought I was going to die. I remember kneeling down and praying, “Lord, if You will let me live through the day, I will rededicate my life to You.” He turned my life around.

Billie Jo and I got married at a Baptist church. We went there for about six months, and then I told her that I would really like to go back to Plant City Church of God. There was a love there I knew as a child I wanted to have back again. We went one Sunday morning, and she fell in love with the church. That was about 35 years ago.

Before I got into children’s ministry, I worked as a youth leader. I helped the youth pastor for about seven years. Then I got involved teaching Sunday school to third- and fourth-grade boys, and I loved it. I felt the call to go into children’s ministry because I loved teaching the boys. I worked under several different children’s pastors.

When Mike Nelson was our children’s pastor, God laid it on his heart to start a ministry for middle schoolers. So he came to me and asked if I would consider serving as the children’s pastor. I had been “Buttons the Clown,” the puppet-ministry director, and had done all the behind-the scenes stuff for kids church, but I didn’t like getting in front of people. I would get nervous, but I knew it was God’s calling on my life to say yes. I said, “Let me and my wife pray about it.”

After praying about it, we agreed to do it for six months. That was 25 years ago! For eight years, I served as a part-time children’s pastor while also working at Tampa Electric Company. Then the church offered me a full-time position, and I’ve been there ever since. I worked under Pastor Robert Herrin—one of my heroes—for 18 years, and now I’ve been serving under Pastor Jeff Robinson for the past two years.

What is the key to successful long-term ministry?
You have to love it and know where you’re supposed to be. I recently told my pastor because I’m older now, “If I ever drive up in the parking lot and dread coming in the doors at kids’ church, I’ll know it’s my time to pass the torch.” I’ve never had that feeling. I get excited on Sunday morning to see and love the kids and maybe make a difference. Because of my background, I know what an impact children’s ministry can make on their lives and the lives of their families.

Every spring break, we have a kids’ revival at our church called Spring Extreme. We have between 225 to 250 kids show up, and many accept Christ. One year, a young lady who works in our ministry brought a little girl whose parents were atheists. The girl responded to the altar call, and I knew she was serious about the Lord. I found out a couple of years ago that this girl’s mom is  now a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church. That is what drives me—the impact it has on a family when a child accepts Christ.

I tell families we don’t babysit their children. Every week, we present a message we have prayed that the Lord has laid on our heart. I still love every second of it.

What’s different now from when you started?
Social media has done a lot of harm because children can see things now that we didn’t have to worry about them seeing years ago. Drugs are more prevalent, and kids are trying alcohol at a younger age. We used to have to start addressing those issues in youth groups, but now we have to worry about it with children.

I had a little girl call me one night. She was 10 years old. It was about 10:30. She said, “My mom and dad are getting divorced.” When I say “divorced,” this couple had already worked with their attorneys and were ready to sign the final papers. Another pastor (Torey Herrin) and I started working with this family. We went over that first night and they were sitting on opposite ends of the  couch and wouldn’t even look at each other. We worked with them for four months, and that was seven years ago. They are still married today and still attend our church. I see them walking hand-in-hand down the hallway. It blesses me so to see the fruit of working with this family, all because their little girl called me that night.

I’ve also dealt with pornography issues with children. A 12-year-old girl’s dad came into my office and she had been watching porn on her phone. That’s the kind of stuff we deal with today.

We have children for such a short window of time. One thing I try to do each week is shake the kids’ hands and compliment them, because some of them don’t get that at home. These days, kids deal with bullying, cutting, and silly things that don’t seem silly to them. The kids see stuff on television that is upheld as acceptable and good, and if you go against it, you’re the bad guy. So, we have to teach the way Christ looks at those things.

I’ve lived in Plant City since I was 2 years old. I love the idea that God called me into the mission field in my own backyard.

Greg Davis serves the Plant City, Florida, Church of God as children’s pastor.