Jeff Barclay thinks he’s gotten better with names as he’s aged, but that doesn’t stop the 52-year-old from making a seating chart at business meetings.
“I’ve been teasing them, ‘We’re going to get name tags,’” he says. “Because they don’t need them, you know ... and they already know my name.”
To be sure, many in Lawrence know Barclay’s name.
Since he arrived in town in 2004, Barclay has been synonymous with Veritas Christian School, 256 N. Mich. As its head administrator, he helped the private school grow into an academy with a high school and athletics teams.
But from now on, Barclay will just be another parent at Veritas, where three of his children have graduated and two more still attend.
Meanwhile, across town at Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive, he is now Jeff Barclay, newly minted associate pastor still learning names.
The career change is something that has inhabited Barclay’s prayers off and on since he left the ministry after 25 years to go into school administration. He loved his job at Veritas but missed life within the church.
“It was just something that I started a couple of years ago dreaming about, and my wife said, ‘That’s wonderful. I kind of miss it, too, but we’re not moving from Lawrence,’” says Barclay who, with wife Cindy, has seven children who all live in the area. “We honestly just quietly prayed and said, ‘Lord, if an opportunity opens up in Lawrence, we might look at it,’ but we weren’t going to actively search beyond Lawrence.”
Over at Christ Community, new pastor John Allen and his congregation of 320 were praying as well. Posted on the church’s Web site was a prayer for the right pastor to join the church: “Please pray for Pastor John, the search team and elders as we seek to discover the man that God intends to add to our pastoral staff ...”
All of God’s hints led Allen to Barclay almost immediately after Allen’s move to Lawrence in August.
“A number of folks had told me about him and recommended I visit with him, but when you’re building a team, you want to make sure that everybody can get along and love each other and all of that,” Allen says.
Then he met Barclay, he says, and he “just really felt that God was leading in this direction and that we needed to follow.”
For Barclay to follow in that direction meant change, even if it didn’t mean leaving Lawrence.
First, there was the fact that Barclay would have to leave his home church, Mustard Seed Christian Fellowship, 700 Wakarusa Drive. That church was more than just a place to go on Sundays; it was a second home as three of Barclay’s children are married, or soon to be married, into ministerial families there.
Next, there was the fact that he’d be leaving Veritas — the place that brought him to Lawrence five years ago and which he had nurtured since. Earlier this month, the close-knit community said goodbye in style — donning ties and suspenders in honor of Barclay.
“I dressed a little more formally in that position, typically with a tie, suspenders and really dressed up — and so lots of the kids wore suspenders and ties on my final day,” Barclay says. “It wasn’t dress code for them, but they thought it must have been my dress code. They’re great.”
Of course, Barclay’s relationship with Veritas is still intact — he still has children enrolled at the school — and he is acting as a consultant to the school until the end of the school year. The school is looking for three people to replace Barclay — an administrator, dean of students and development director. Though Barclay is sure the most immediate blow will be felt in the candy department.
“On their birthdays, they always got Tootsie Roll pops, and I think they may be missing the Tootsie Roll pops as much as they were missing me. ‘What are we going to do about our Tootsie Roll pops?’” he says in a child’s voice. “I told Mrs. Huslig she had to get Tootsie Roll pops, but I don’t know if she remembered that or not.”
Mrs. Huslig is Kelli Huslig, who was tapped to be the school’s interim administrator. She says Veritas understands Barclay’s call back into ministry.
“I believe God just directed him to this opening to be a pastor at the church and he was being obedient,” Huslig says. “And so while it has been difficult for us, we also know that God has a plan for our school. And so it will end up being a positive thing for all of us.”
Working with the community
From his new desk in a corner office at Christ Community, Barclay looks right at home in the church, despite the fact that there is yet another big change in the works for him — he is switching denominations from Church of God to Evangelical Free.
“The Evangelical Free Church looked like a solid match for me,” says Barclay, who will have to serve at Christ Community for a year before he can make the switch in ordination. “It’s a very solid evangelical statement of faith, but it allows us here as church to be contemporary and relevant.”
Also a good fit is Barclay’s newest partner, Allen. Both agree Barclay’s skills work well with the direction the church is going.
“What we’re calling him is our growth pastor. The official title is associate pastor of growth and discipleship,” Allen says. “It sounds very businesslike, but he’s very entrepreneurial. He loves developing new things and moving forward, very community-minded as well as really just a great mind for taking care of people. And so what he’s going to be doing is really a lot along the lines of developing people and developing new ministries.”
Which is something Barclay was doing in his own way at Veritas.
“In many ways ... I don’t want to call this a miracle that this opened up,” Barclays says, “but it feels bigger than coincidence. It really, truly does.”