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Local pastor just as passionate 20 years later

"The three essential questions that need to be asked are 'How did we get here?', 'What are we doing here?' and 'Where are we going?'" Youth Pastor Garrett Johnston said. He's been working on these questions with youth groups at the First Baptist Church for 20 years. "This church has made an investment in our youth," he added.Reminder Publications photo by Courtney Llewellyn
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW Some people may lose passion for their work after 20 years of doing the same thing. Pastor Garrett Johnston of the First Baptist Church, however, seems to be ready and willing to go every single day.

"I haven't seen a person who's as hardworking as he is," Kathy Reimers, his secretary, said. "He's never not available. He's involved in constant activity."

Johnston serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church, located on Parker Street. His concentrations involve working with youth, discipleship (assisting those who want to get more involved in religion) and grounds work (keeping the church and its property looking kempt).

He said he felt a strong spiritual presence as a teenager, but started his college career as a business major at Liberty University in Virginia. He felt a strong pull toward joining the ministry, though, and transferred to the Boston Baptist College. He was hired by the First Baptist Church in East Longmeadow a year before graduating.

"I've been here three or four years longer than our senior pastor," Johnston said.

The weekend of Nov. 9 - 11, he took a group of seniors in his youth group down to Liberty University for a college visit. His work with youth includes much, much more.

The stated purpose of youth ministries at the First Baptist Church is "to bring teens to Christ, who bring others to Christ and build lives that are focused on God, His Word and training for ministry and have a blast doing it."

Activities headed by Youth Pastor Johnston include a weekly youth group meeting, a band, conferences, a talent show, a "Super Rally" at Six Flags New England, camping, pool parties, laser tag and more and all events are "geared with an emphasis on God," according to Johnston.

"I'm here to help teenagers spiritually," he said. "I give them an introduction to God, help them grow that relationship and provide them with a healthy environment." He added that the church is "pro-family, pro-community and pro-God."

His youth group has a roster of approximately 300 teenagers. Made up of students from home schools, private schools and public schools spanning 20 different schools in total, the group meets every Wednesday night at Meadowbrook School from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m.

"The combination of teenagers and church is difficult," Johnston said. The youth group helps those in seventh through twelfth grades build great relationships with each other, with their families and the church, he added.

"He's very passionate," Reimers stated. "He won't not take a call if someone needs to talk to him. He has a great sense of humor and he really relates to the teens he works with."

In addition to all his work at the First Baptist Church, Johnston is also an assistant varsity baseball coach at East Longmeadow High School.

"I love East Longmeadow," he said. "It's a great place."

Churchgoers and those in Johnston's youth group celebrated his 20 years of service to the community in a reception on Nov. 4.

"His goal is to really impact our community," Reimers said. She believed those attending the reception did nothing but sing his praises.

But after 20 years on the job, is Johnston getting worn down?

"When and what are subject to change, but I feel I'm where God wants me to be," he explained. "At 41, I'm still passionate about the age group I work with. And 20 years, I think my consistency is a benefit."