When asked what the focus of his ministry is, Jim Barth, recently appointed pastor of the Lovell United Methodist Church, said, “Relationships – building relationships with people, building disciples in the church and building relationships outside of church.”
Jim was born and raised in Elizabethtown, Pa. He attended Widner University in Chester, Pa., where he earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and obtained a Master of Divinity in May, 2009, from Evangelical Theological Seminary.
It was a missions trip to the Blackfeet Tribe in Browning, Mont., that “started my walk with God at a prayer service where everything became real to me,” Barth said. He led a group in 2006 and 2007 in return trips to Browning.
On his 2006 trip he became engaged to his wife, Larisa. They were married Jan. 6, 2007. Barth said, “My wife is my biggest supporter I’ve ever had. She is a beautiful singer and piano player. I love listening when she sings. She is very talented.” The Barths have a 19-month-old daughter, Kamari, in their home.
As a result of the missions trips their first pastorate was in Browning ministering to the Blackfeet community. They served there for five years before being assigned to the Powell and Lovell churches.
Jim loves working in schools. Although he intends to be involved at all levels, he prefers middle/high school students. He has coached volleyball and substitute taught. He even taught a class on how to butcher chickens. “Any time they asked for help I’d jump on it,” he added. He highly values kids. He remarked that people say kids are the nation of tomorrow and the church of tomorrow. He adamantly stated, “They are the nation of today, the church of today.”
The Barths’ first child, Asher, was stillborn. They fought to get people to recognize the life of their baby. Because he never took a breath, some said he did not live.
Out of that struggle they created the website heldyourwholelife.com. At the time of Asher’s birth the funeral director showed the Barths a brochure about a company that makes fingerprint jewelry called Thumbies, creating a keepsake in honor of a special life. However, Thumbies are quite expensive. They wanted to offer to families a way to recognize the life of their miscarried or stillborn babies.
Through the website Jim and Larisa offer people who have suffered such losses a necklace for moms or key chains for dads as a memorial of their baby. They found such comfort in the thumbie they received and they hope to offer the same to others. There is no charge for the memorial jewelry with the name of the child on it, however, they have recently needed to charge for shipping due to the rising costs. The Barths have given away more than 6,000 pieces of jewelry to people across the United States and in many other countries.
Larisa believes that whatever character traits a person has will multiply after experiencing the loss of a child. Jim agreed, saying, “My patience and grace toward others has grown after losing our child, recognizing the flaws of humanity and being patient with them. Christ was so patient with his disciples. He kept telling them and telling them until they finally got it.”
Initially, Jim wants to be seen in the community. “It is important for the church to be seen in a community in a positive way, not just myself, but members of the church need to be involved, for example, in the elementary school. What will we be able to do to have a safe place for youth to come?
“I don’t agree with the Lone Ranger attitude. I want to work together with the other churches.” Jim said if another church is doing something well, there is no need to double up on that activity.
Pastor Barth believes it is important to bless a community by demonstrating the love God has for people.
“The more I experience life the more I realize how much love God has for us and how much He gives us grace,” he said.
One thing Jim would like to do is extend the size of the food pantry at the church and have set hours so it would be more accessible to those in need.
When asked about his style of ministry Jim quoted a line he memorized from seminary, “You cannot lead anyone where you are not willing to go there yourself,” adding, “I want to be an example, not having all the answers, but going out doing what I’m asking them to do.”
His goal is to stay focused with his time as he is only allowed to spend three hours a week in Lovell outside of Sunday services. He will be here Thursday afternoons from 1-4. He’ll be in the office at the church for a short while, then be out and about visiting and meeting people. He is excited to be a part of the community.
“In time, relationships will grow so I won’t look like an outsider,” Jim noted. He also hopes to bring the church back to the place where they can support a full-time pastor.
To reach Jim, as he prefers to be called rather than pastor or reverend Barth, call the church and leave a message at 548-7478 or email him at email@example.com. For emergencies his cell phone number is on the message on the church phone.
Services at the Lovell United Methodist Church are at 9 a.m. this Sunday, Aug. 31, and 9:30 a.m. starting Sept. 7.
By Teressa Ennis