The skateboarding pastor
Published 9:58 pm Friday, March 24, 2017
Driving a bright red Ford F-150, wearing Vans and often found passing free time skateboarding are atypical for lead pastors, but those are some of the hallmarks of the new pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church.
Ricky Garza, who is all of 29 years old, has been the lead pastor at Hillcrest since September. The former pastor, Jim George, took a pulpit in Fredericksburg in 2015.
Garza is a native of San Diego, Calif., which he acknowledges is as much a different place in church life as in all other aspects.
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“Churches out that way are a lot larger than they are in this area,” he said. “Things were fast-paced. It’s definitely different.”
Garza didn’t grow up in church as a small child. His father was a methamphetamine dealer and was in and out of jail for the first dozen or so years of his son’s life.
“Church just wasn’t something that we did,” Garza said.
But then, his father came home from a stint in prison and seemed changed.
“That’s the first thing he said was, ‘I want to go to church,’” Garza recalled. “And the only place that would hire my dad was the church, because of his record.”
His father soon came to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but Garza remained hesitant. He wanted to see if the transformation was real.
“After two years of watching him, I was like, ‘This is it. This is legitimate,’” Garza said. “I gave my heart to the Lord and said, ‘I’m yours.’”
That didn’t turn out to be the extent of his involvement in the church.
“I thought I was going to be a pro skater,” Garza said. “My backup was a firefighter.”
But God had other career plans for Garza. When he graduated high school, his lead pastor gave him the job of youth pastor, putting him in charge of about 300 students at their large California church.
Garza married his middle-school sweetheart at age 21. He and his wife, Tyne, now have two daughters, 6-year-old Emery and 4-year-old Eden.
The couple planted another church in their early 20s. But his wife’s family history eventually drew them to Hillcrest Baptist.
His mother-in-law grew up in Hillcrest and got married there. His parents-in-law and wife’s grandparent still live nearby.
Garza is excited to be at Hillcrest and is eagerly promoting the church’s two Sunday morning services, a contemporary service at 9 and a traditional service at 11.
“They both feel different,” Garza said. The music and order of service are different, and he even dresses differently for the two services, although he preaches the same sermon. “For us, that’s a definite draw that we have.”
Garza said both services have grown in attendance since he started at the church. He hopes to continue to see growth.
“Our heart is long-term,” he said. “The plan, the goal, is to see something be built up and established.”