Corey Nelson is a former Marine turned pastor. His unusual journey to ministry included a debilitating shoulder injury that subjected him to a battery of surgeries and left him virtually dependent on painkillers. After earning his degree from Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, Corey took the reigns of a United Methodist Church in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Louisville, Kentucky. Corey and his team have transformed that church into Grace Kids, a church completely devoted to children.
Editor’s Correction: In the interview, Jason mentions Corey pastors a church in a neighborhood the governor of Kentucky has described as the most dangerous in Kentucky. In actuality, the governor described it as one of the five most dangerous in Kentucky.
Key Questions for Corey Nelson:
– How did you go from pastoring an older congregation in a rough neighborhood to pastoring a church dedicated to reaching children?
– How has the church focusing on children impacted the community?
– Tell us about the personal trials God used to lead you into the ministry.[SUBSCRIBE] For more ChurchLeaders podcasts click here!
Key Quotes from Corey Nelson:
“In those early years, we really focused on the gang bangers, the prostitutes, the convicts, the drug dealers. We really felt a push towards the people that it seems the Church claims to want, but I don’t really see a lot of action towards that, necessarily. And so, we wanted to create a safe space for them.”
“I just relate to kids. I never wanted to do children’s ministry, that was never on my radar, but I relate well to kids.”
“Mark 2:13-17 had a profound impact on me in seminary…with Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors and the idea that that was not your garden variety sinners.”
“I would pray to God for direction…but it felt like as I was praying I was shaking kids off.”
“We have seen just absolutely amazing fruit.”
“What if the church really believed the things that we proclaim? How different would the world be, how different would the church be? Because we say a lot of things, but we don’t live as if we believe.”
“We have kids that come in the door that literally have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. I’ve had kids come in the door that if I mention Jesus, will cover their mouths because they think that I’ve said a swear word.”
“[These kids] are finding hope…and restoring their ability to be kids and what God created them to be.”
“We can teach them Bible verses all day long, and we can train them to recite them back to us, but if they never commit to living it, if they never understand contextually what that means for them today, then we’ve failed here. I don’t want a bunch of robots that can recite John 3:16 for me.”
“I told my assistant if we can’t convey the message in 10 minutes, we’re failing.”
“We decided to make play a part of worship.”
“These kids are drinking up everything, and we’re beginning to see the fruits of that in their performance at school, in the way the way they behave in the neighborhood. We’ve seen a decrease in crime…”
“When we recognize that God loves them and wants them more than we ever could, and that God really is in control of this, that is so freeing.”
“I always told people that God and I were fighting this whole time. In hindsight, I was the one fighting, God was holding me like the petulant child lashing out.”
“I told the surgeon: If things went bad, I don’t want to come back from this.”
Links Mentioned in the Show: