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By Carmen Ensinger
Pastor Jeff Heil can’t exactly be called Lifepoint Church’s “new” pastor because he has been the church’s spiritual leader for the past six months, but he is new to the Carrollton community, taking over from former pastor Scott Wade.
“I was officially voted in as pastor on January 9 of this year,” Heil said. “My family and I moved to Carrollton on January 16 and I kind of officially started on the first Sunday in February so I have officially been here about six months now.”
Heil’s family includes his wife Jean and their three children – James, who is 25 and lives in Missouri; Jayson, who attends Western University; and Julia, who is going to be a freshman this year at Carrollton High School.
Heil is a 1988 graduate of Alton High School and a 1992 graduate of Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville with a degree in communications. From there, he went to North Central University in Minnesota, which is a Bible College where he graduated with a Christian Studies Degree in 1994.
“From that point on, I have pretty much been in the ministry full time,” Heil said. “There were a few times when I had to work somewhere else, but most of the time I have been working as a youth pastor.”
In fact, Heil came to Carrollton after spending 9.5 years as youth pastor at Faith Fellowship Church, a non-denominational church on Seminary Road in Alton.
Growing up in Alton, he knew about the church, so when he heard they were looking for a youth pastor, he paid them a visit.
“I was visiting the area back in 2012 and they knew that I was a youth pastor and they were looking for one and they asked me to come on board,” Heil said. “I felt like God was leading me to do that and that is where I have spent the last 9.5 years. I have loved doing youth ministry and loved working with the students, but I felt like God was kind of calling me to transition, so I sent out a few resumes.”
One of those resumes landed on the desk of Lifepoint Church.
“I’m affiliated with the Assembly of God Church and Lifepoint is a part of that denomination, so they got my resume, along with a few others,” Heil said. “From there, God began to open doors at this church. I went through the interview process and everything just kind of fell into place and we were accepted.”
This past Saturday, Heil and his family got to experience just what Carrollton is all about – community.
“I asked them what community events the church does and the Pack to School is a community event that this church has done for a long time,” Heil said. “This is a great opportunity to give back to the community and have some fun in the process and just let the community know we are here and we love them.”
The event was held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fry Park. The church rented the Carrollton Pool from 10 a.m. to noon. They also rented two water-themed bounce houses for the kids to play in from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There was also a slip ‘n slide, free tattoos, free food including hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and soda and at noon a watermelon eating contest.
With all the fun events for the kids, the free backpacks, which contained all the school supplies students will need for the upcoming school year, kind of got lost in the shuffle. But each student was given a backpack filled with school items.
Heil said he plans to have more upcoming events to make the church’s presence known in the community.
“We are hoping to do a community event about once every quarter just to give back to the community and let them know that we are here and we are thankful to be part of this community,” he said. “Right now, we are working on maybe having a fall festival in October, potentially on Saturday, October 22. It would be kind of like a school carnival where you have the games and the kids can win prizes. We are trying to see if we can get some more community involvement instead of just our church – maybe get some other churches involved.”
Lifepoint Church has always had an active youth program, so the fact that Heil has been a youth pastor for the past 30 years probably helped in his hiring, though he admits to taking a backseat now in favor of someone younger in the role.
“We have a volunteer youth guy now (Jamie Benoist) and while I am willing to help him, my role now is that of lead pastor,” Heil said. “I kind of let him run with the youth program. I love hanging out with the teens and having fun with them, but I’m trying to be a little more hands off with that. I really feel the need to minister to adults now. I’m 51, so after doing youth ministry for 30 years, I feel like I have put my time in on the youth ministry side of things.”
However, old habits are hard to break.
For example, Heil was doing tricks off the diving board at the Carrollton Pool Saturday morning, right along with the kids. Prior to that, he went along with a group of kids to a camp over at Lake Williamson in Carlinville in June and then again a few weeks ago.
Growing up in Alton, Heil admits moving to Carrollton took a bit of getting used to, but a very welcoming one.
“I must say, it’s been a little different getting used to driving to Jerseyville to do the grocery shopping, but I know they are working on a store uptown,” he said. “But, as for Carrollton, I love this town. I really like the people. They are super friendly and very loving and I just love the community spirit that is here.”