In some ways, it makes complete sense that Jabin Umfleet (’20) decided to go into ministry.
After all, his dad was a pastor in Montana and his parents raised him in a Christian home.
But Umfleet wasn’t the perfect Christian child that he was expected to be. “I ended up rebelling, and I got caught in a bad crowd.” It wasn’t until the summer after 10th grade that Umfleet finally accepted Christ into his life. He attended youth camp with the Northwest District and got saved. His adult leader, Dallas Horsley, was an OKWU student working the camp that summer.
When Umfleet returned to his small hometown, he had two years of high school left and not a single youth group in town where he could plug in and develop this newfound relationship. But during this time, God was still at work in his heart, and Umfleet began to feel the pull to ministry.
Growing up the son of a Wesleyan pastor, Umfleet was very familiar with OKWU, so when the time came for him to make his college decision, he chose to make the trek to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
When he arrived on campus, he felt a vague pull toward youth ministry, but he didn’t feel completely sure. Umfleet earned a degree in Pastoral Ministry without specializing in youth ministries or missions work, because he wanted to keep his options open. Then one Sunday, he heard a sermon that struck him.
“I’m not super athletic or anything like that,” Umfleet said. “I love to preach and I love teenagers, but other than that, I don’t have a lot of the typical attributes that make a youth pastor.”
But the pastor’s sermon on the Triumphal Entry gave him a new perspective.
“He was talking about how Jesus chose to ride a donkey into town. The donkey is not a white steed or anything, it’s probably the lowest animal, but Jesus chose it. And I thought, hey, that’s me. I’m not necessarily built for this, but Jesus chose me to do this.” That is the moment Umfleet accepted his call to youth ministry.
As his academic career progressed, Umfleet zeroed in on ministering to rural areas and remembered an idea that had stuck with him since his own time in high school: what if there was a youth group that worked together with all the churches in his hometown?
Umfleet’s college experience was deeply impactful in other ways, too. He met his wife, Ally, and was for the first time in his life surrounded by Christian peers.
“I was one of the only Christians in my graduating class, and I didn’t know what intense Christians looked like. A lot of people I knew were just Christians in name only.” His wife’s friend group introduced him to other Christians, and they started to lead worship for various churches over the years.
“I’m not necessarily built for this, but Jesus chose me to do this.”
In 2019, when Umfleet was a junior, he met Steve McVey of Dirt Roads Network, who specializes in helping rural pastors across America revitalize their church and find a community of pastors to walk alongside.
“He called me up and asked me to be his youth pastor,” Umfleet said. The church was in Kansas, his last year of college was in Oklahoma, and his heart was in Montana. But Umfleet obeyed God’s leading and agreed to interview.
“I’m in the interview, I think I’m acing every single question. And eventually the board asks me where I see myself in ten years,” Umfleet said. “And I started sweating, because I know they’re wanting me to stick around for a while.”
Umfleet answered them honestly, outlining his vision of one day starting an interdenominational youth group in his hometown of Forsyth, Montana. He was certain his answer would knock him out of the running, but McVey smiled at him. “You know,” McVey said, “I’ve known people that have done that for the last 20 years.”
McVey told him about Crossroads Farm, a ministry in Michigan that specializes in interdenominational youth ministry in rural America. The church in Kansas offered Umfleet their youth pastor position, which he accepted.
During his senior year of college, he would drive up every weekend to do church with his youth group in Lamont, Kansas. It was a great learning experience, and the entire time was preparing Umfleet for what was to come.
Toward the Future
In January 2023, Umfleet resigned from the church and transitioned to a new calling – ministry at Crossroads Farm. He is currently raising funds to become a ministry director at Crossroads. He and his wife will, when fully funded, move to Michigan for roughly 30 months of training. When that training is complete, he will return to Montana to begin the ministry that he felt called to since high school.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Umfleet said. “Two and a half years is not that long, and this ministry is going to get started and teenagers are going to start giving their lives to Christ in my own community.”
Umfleet is thankful that his journey took him to OKWU. As a fairly new Christian, the environment at OKWU was the perfect place for him to solidify his faith while also being challenged by his professors and new friends. It was the launching point for what he believes will become an impactful ministry.
“This ministry is something that God has already said is going to happen. He’s already revealed that it’s going to happen,” Umfleet said. “I’m just looking for people to join the team.”
To learn more about Crossroads Farm, visit their website.