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The Hero Series: 15 Years of Student Ministry

Taft Simmons is the Director of Retirement Planning at Mountain States and a huge North Carolina basketball fan. He’s also been a small group leader in Grace Students for 15 years. We consider leaders like Taft the heroes of our Family Life ministry and want to take a few weeks on the Life at Grace blog to celebrate their service. We asked Taft a few questions about his experience serving students over the years.

What is your volunteer role - and what does that look like for you in your day-to-day life?
I serve in Grace Students helping lead the 12th grade guys' small group. We usually meet once a week, but often I am texting with the guys and other leaders to set up a time for us to meet for dinner, plan a party or some other event, or just scheming our next prank to pull on Preston.

Think back 15 years ago (if you can remember) when you began to invest in students here at GFC. What was it that drew you to student ministry?
Well, I grew up in a home that modeled serving. After high school, I knew I definitely wanted to serve somewhere, and student ministry made sense at the time. What has kept me serving in student ministry is that in working with youth and teens over the years, I’ve realized it’s such an impactful time in their lives. I wanted to be a part of that, and help mentor them, shape them. And it’s a lot of fun, too.

What do you love about what you do at GFC?

When working with students, if you just realize it's all about doing life with these guys, so it takes a lot of pressure off trying to do or be something you might not be so good at. I think it is a blast just doing life with these guys and watching them grow up over the years. Down the road when these guys are older and maybe have families of their own, it will be really cool talking about the things we did together and all the fun we had when they were in the student ministry.

Do you have any funny or embarrassing memories during your time serving?
Haha, I'm sure there are plenty as I am prone to say the worst thing at the worst time, but thanks to weeks of therapy, I have managed to block it all out!

15 years investing in the lives of students – I imagine you’ve seen God work in some incredible ways over the years. What are 1 or 2 highlights of how you’ve seen God work?
A lot of times, it’s really cool to reconnect with students later in life. I’ve worked with kids that are grown, married now, have children of their own. A good friend of mine who was in my youth group years ago is now a worship pastor at another church. I’ve seen kids pour into other students themselves. They volunteer while they’re in student ministry, or after they graduate high school or college, they come back and help with small groups, and I have the chance to work alongside them. It’s just exciting to see what God does in their life.

We talk a lot about the Ultimate Journey here at GFC – being changed by Christ and used by Christ. So I’m curious – how are you personally different because you’ve invested your life in students? How has God changed you in the journey?
Well, I think one thing is that students keep you honest. They keep you young. Also, it really challenges me to stay in the Word, to read. I’m not a reader at all so I have to force myself to do that. It challenges me to dig deeper, to study, be prepared. If you show up and fake it one night – they know. They know when you’re not prepared. They know when you really don’t know what’s going on and you’re just feeling your way through it. So it really challenges me to grow, to be in a small group myself.


We are grateful for Taft Simmons and the more than 100 volunteers that pour their lives into kids and students each week.

You may or may not be aware that we have a huge opportunity here at Grace Fellowship Church. We have almost 500 kids and students that come through the doors of our church every week. That is an unbelievable opportunity to impact the next generation for Christ. There’s something powerful about investing your life in kids and students. Marriages are different because of Taft’s investment in young men. They parent differently now. Many of them will be small group leaders when they grow up – because of Taft’s investment and example.

You can be a hero in the life of a child or student, too – learn more and sign up to serve in our Family Life ministry at


Other heroes in this series:

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Carolee Morrison wrote:
All 4 of our grown kids have been able to spend time with Taft and I'm sure they all have stories they could tell! Our family has always appreciated Taft and all of the other adults who have poured in to our kids and supported us, as parents by living their lives in front of them and modeling how to walk with God! Small group leaders are such a blessing! Thanks to all of them for everything they do for our kids!!

Tue, February 23, 2016 @ 1:30 PM

2. James McNeill wrote:
Dear Taft I am so proud of you and glad to see you are doing well. You have always been an inspiration even as far back as your military days. Please contact me as I would love to hear from you old buddy. Mac

Mon, February 29, 2016 @ 4:59 PM

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