Passionate about God’s love, learning, & connecting
Ryan Bailey will begin work on Sunday, Aug. 9, as the director of faith formation. In that role, Ryan’s daily life will mean time spent with confirmation students, adult learning on Sundays and throughout the week, and guiding the programs that engage kids and youth around this place. Learn a little bit more about Ryan in this Q & A.
Tell us about growing up and your family:
I grew up in the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World” – Parke County, Indiana. There are 31 covered bridges in Parke County, and only 17,000 people. It’s a beautiful corner of the state and a great place to grow up. My parents are Tom and Becky, and my siblings are Robin, Birch, and Betsy. Betsy and I are twins. I was in 4-H and FFA as a kid, and I was drum major of my high school marching band (my instrument was trombone). Our family attended a small Baptist church in our hometown of Rosedale. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I was part of the church.
How did you come to work in the church?
For many years, I was absolutely certain I would be a teacher. When I enrolled at Purdue University, I majored in Social Studies Education. But during college, I was very active in campus ministry, and several people in my life at the time asked if I’d ever considered ministry. My campus pastor pointed out to me that many of the things I thought would make me a good teacher would also suit me well for work as a pastor. So I opened myself up to that possibility, and in 2007, I graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, with a Master of Divinity. For the last eight years, I’ve served as solo pastor of a congregation in northwest Indiana.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to spend time with close friends drinking coffee, having dinner, and talking. I like to kayak – especially on scenic rivers that have a nice current; lakes are OK, but I don’t want to have to paddle too much. When it’s not too cold or too hot, I like to run. I enjoy reading and watching movies, and I’m sure I spend a little more time than I should watching Netflix. When I have the chance, I love to hang out with my nieces and nephew, whose ages are 5, 4, and 17 months.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about proclaiming God’s love. I’m passionate about teaching and learning. I’m passionate about making connections between the gospel and real life, and I’m passionate about communities – our life together. Through my ministry, I hope I can help people see that the gospel isn’t meant to limit life but to expand it. I think of something Sam Wells once said in a sermon while he was Dean of Duke Chapel: “The Bible is God’s love letter to us, but we often read it as if it’s some kind of a threat.” I couldn’t function in faith without the worship life and formation in community that we get from church. What we do in church or at church is absolutely vital.
I think this view of faith – that faith is about expanding life – gives us a greater sense of purpose in every sphere of our lives and pushes us to engage our neighbors where they are.
What is drawing you to St. Paul?
I’m drawn to St. Paul because it is a congregation that is moving forward. I’m really excited about collaborating with such a talented staff and many gifted members of the congregation, especially since the people of St. Paul are so committed to excellence. Some have said that the church today is trapped in a narrative of decline. Not so at St. Paul! It’s clear that this congregation is enthusiastic about the future and eagerly exploring opportunities for greater ministry and service. It’s only natural to be drawn to a place like that. This also seems like a good place to mention how glad I am to be serving in a Lutheran church. My background is Baptist, but I’ve long had a deep appreciation for Lutheran worship and theology, and I look forward to making myself at home in this rich tradition of grace.
What is one interesting thing I would learn about you if we had coffee together?
You’d probably learn right away that I taught high school French full-time last year. I minored in French in college, and last year the high school in the town where I’ve been serving in Indiana was searching for a new teacher. I approached the high school principal and told her to keep me in mind. She did, and the school and my congregation decided to try an experiment. I continued to serve as a pastor while I taught, which meant the work on my plate was always demanding and usually exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I loved getting to know the students. We capped off the year by taking 13 students to England and France in June.