A “Vision” for Youth from a Blind Leader

August 11, 2016

CIU alumnus leads a flock he can’t see

By Dr. David Olshine

 Professor of Youth Ministry, Family, and Culture

It’s Wednesday night in Lugoff, South Carolina and I’m at the happening place to be. With hundreds of teenagers outside Friendship Baptist Church, you’d think a rock concert was about to take place. I watch Jack Hair mingle with the teens and volunteer adult leaders. It’s obvious that this youth pastor is relational and a man on a mission.

Lugoff, population about 7,000, is 30 miles northeast of Columbia. It’s a friendly town with not much for teenagers to do. Hair made sure that changed.

What makes Jack Hair so remarkable?

He is legally blind. Hair has had an eye disease since birth that afflicts only one in a million people. He can only see images. A GoFundMe account has been established to raise $12,000 for a pair of unique eyeglasses that will help him see people for the first time. But Hair apparently functions like most folks who can see. He drove me around the church grounds in a golf cart. It was a little scary, but we survived.

His youth ministry has grown from seven to over 200 students in six years.  Hair began his ministry at Friendship Baptist in October, 2010. “The first night I was here, we had seven kids, and I brought three (of them) with me.” In his first year, Jack said, “we grew to about 70 students.”

He is part time, not full time. Hair works about 20 hours a week. He has groomed and trained a group of amazing adult volunteers who help with the ministry, and a group of student leaders. The student leaders emcee the Wednesday youth service, lead games and 90 percent of the worship band members are students.

His teens want to be in the presence of Jesus. I speak to the Friendship Baptist youth group about twice a year and I love coming. On my most recent visit, I was blown away at what Hair has done. The energy of the 235 teens that night was remarkable.

The teens have bought into the vision. Hair has a three E philosophy: entertain. “Our goal is have the lost and seeker want to come. We want to attract people to visit and stay. We want it to be fun because I think heaven is going to be fun. In the beginning we wanted to reach the lost, but we know we cannot compete with culture when it comes to entertainment, so there has to be more.” Second “E” is experience. “We desire to see students experience Jesus. Entertainment will get them in the door, but experiencing Jesus will keep them coming back.” Last “E” is equip. “We want them equipped to share Jesus, to be and make disciples (that’s why we do small groups) and make an impact in their community.”

His gifts are leadership, teaching and being relational. Hair has a way of connecting with teens; he knows how to get down on their level. “I bring adults in, and tell them, ‘do not talk at them, talk with them.’” His dynamic personality and love to teach Scripture has made a huge difference in this community. For Hair, youth ministry is not a stepping stone to bigger and better positions in the church, but a lifelong calling.

Editor’s Note: Jack Hair began his youth ministry degree in 1999 and graduated from CIU in December 2002. He needed magnifying glasses to read the required textbooks.