BY NEAL A. Johnson
Community Christian Church Pastor Jeff Kruger will hold his final services Sunday as he and his family are leaving to serve as pastor …
BY NEAL A. Johnson
Community Christian Church Pastor Jeff Kruger will hold his final services Sunday as he and his family are leaving to serve as pastor at Mount Vernon Christian Church near Springfield.
“It was a very hard decision,” said Kruger. “It’s something we’ve been praying about a lot. We love the people here, and the people in this community. But we felt the tug from God to go somewhere else and we started exploring that option.”
Kruger applied relatively late for the position, but said Mount Vernon Christian Church is located 30 minutes from his and Laura’s parents. “We’ll be able to help them as they begin to age, and having the grandchildren close to them was a big deal,” said Kruger.
Since becoming pastor of CCC in October of 2012, Kruger said he has enjoyed tending to the needs of his congregation as well as people in the community.
‘”God has blessed this church in the last seven and a half years,” he said. “It’s definitely not me. It’s God who has taken the reins and done some great things.”
The church on Hwy. 50 just east of Linn has undergone two remodels, with the old sanctuary changeover to classrooms and nursery completed in 2013, and last summer, the downstairs area was refurbished, along with the addition of new carpeting and tile in the sanctuary and a new digital sign outside.
That’s all been paid off through generous donations to the church, Kruger said.
“Even through this pandemic, things have still been good,” he added. “We’ve been able to continue our ministry, and I give a lot of credit to our staff. They’ve done a remarkable job.”
Youth programs, such as Team Kid, and weekly gatherings, with leadership from Youth Minister Joe Davis, have thrived, except for the recent shutdown due to the COVID-19 virus.
One of the biggest goals for Kruger is to see people grow spiritually. “We’ve seen a lot of that here, and we’ve seen God’s hand in helping people change, and that’s very fulfilling,” said Kruger. “If you go into something with an agenda, it’s sometimes hard to complete it, but if you go into with the understanding that God will lead you, then all things are possible.”
Community Christian Church has seen tremendous growth over the years, and Kruger said he believes that will continue because of the people who are committed to the ministry.
“It’s not just the staff,” he said. “It takes many people volunteering their time to make things happen, and we have a congregation full of great people who do just that.”
Leaving this congregation is bittersweet, Kruger added, particularly because of his family.
“We’ve doubled the size of our family since we got here,” he said.
The Kruger’s eldest daughter, Lisa, will be a senior in 2020-21, and has made strides both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. She has been a member of the track and basketball teams, and recently earned a national officer’s position with FCCLA.
JD will be a junior, and has excelled in basketball, as well as the Linn R-2 Community Chess Club, with a strong finish at the 2019 state tournament. Rachael will be an eighth-grader in the coming year, and has played basketball. Katie, 5, is the youngest Kruger, and she will enter kindergarten in the fall.
Joining the family through adoption are Matthew, who also will enter kindergarten in the fall, and Kalli, 3, with the adoption becoming final May 4, though the young children joined the Kruger household three years ago.
“It’s been a long process, but God has blessed us with them, and it’s been wonderful,” said Kruger. “We’re very excited to see them grow.”
Kruger added that he and Laura have enjoyed coaching at Linn R-2.
“It’s been phenomenal to work with the kids over the years,” he said. “It’s hard to leave, but I told the congregation when I announced our plans that we have to do what God calls us to do. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be in God’s will, and we definitely feel called to go.”
As a non-denominational Christian church, there is no network per se, which means that while churches do meet up at camps and other events, there are no work assignments.
“We can apply freely wherever we want,” said Kruger.
Mount Vernon Christian Church has a slightly smaller congregation than the Linn church, but Kruger said there is a lot of potential due to its proximity to Joplin and Springfield on I-44.
“They’ve got a great outreach program,” said Kruger, noting the church makes and sells apple butter, with proceeds going right back into the community. “They help families in need with these funds.”
Kruger will begin his role at Mount Vernon Christian Church a week after leaving Linn, but he will spend the first month or so getting to know the people there, and will not begin offering sermons right away.
Laura, meanwhile, has accepted a position with the Exeter school district and will begin teaching there next fall.
Community Christian Church is advertising for the next pastor at Linn, but it will take some time.
“The elders will take care of how to proceed with the process,” said Kruger.
In the meantime, services will continue, and staff will remain the same, with Davis as the youth minister, and Amanda Mueller as the secretary. Connie Stroupe will lead worship.