“As senior pastor, I understood I had big shoes to fill following my father. It may seem strange, but I purchased a pair of wing-tipped shoes just like his,” said Bro. Kevin Leaman, who pastors the Saginaw Valley United Pentecostal Church in Saginaw, Michigan. His parents are Paul and Alice Leaman, former missionaries to Latin America. “I was privileged to be a missionary’s kid — all my teenage years were spent in Latin America and it had a huge impact on my life.”
Pastor Kevin Leaman served the Michigan district as presbyter for 11 years. Since 2011, he has served as the district secretary.
Principles of Growth and Revival
The church in Saginaw Valley has a vision for a 1,000-soul revival. Pastor Leaman said, “In a service in the fall of 2016, I felt the Lord prompt me to speak and believe for a 1-000-soul revival. In one of the first services in our new building, we had tongues and interpretation of how this vision is going to come about and how God is already preparing the souls. We believe this is the next great and mighty miracle we will see! We just have to do the work.” The church is praying this vision, sharing it and working toward it. Saginaw Valley UPC’s goal is for the “… strong involvement of our pastoral staff, ministerial team and congregants reaching for souls every day.”
To experience the fulfillment of its vision, the church utilizes growth ministries for increasing attendance, such as the Barnabas Ministry. This establishes a relationship connection with guests as soon as they walk in the door, which is accomplished through pastor’s breakfasts, personal invitations to fellowship and introducing guests to people in their age group. Follow-up is with written notes, phone calls and visits. Saginaw Valley UPC’s philosophy is, “The sooner someone connects, the less apt we are to lose them.”
The church also supports a Wednesday Night Food Program. According to Pastor Leaman, this ministry changed the whole climate of the church. In the beginning, they were bringing children to church in two vans. The children were having a hard time focusing on their classes, so the church began serving them a simple meal. Word spread and within a year it was necessary to purchase a third van. Of this growth, Pastor Leaman says, “Our children’s ministry and student ministry were growing! Relationships were being built, kids were going to camp, children and youth were receiving the Holy Ghost. We now have five vans and feed an average of 250 people each Wednesday evening.” He continued, “The growth of our children and youth programs were the whole reason we needed a bigger facility.”
Pastor Leaman also gives credit for church growth to the “WOW” First Impressions Team. This team consists of parking lot attendants, greeters and ushers. This ministry is a place for people to get involved without fear of a lifetime commitment. These people take great pride in welcoming guests and making them feel a part of the church family.
Other outreach methods utilized by the Saginaw Valley UPC include the Christmas Parade, an inner city Thanksgiving Dinner, Easter activities, All Nations Dinner and a Fourth of July celebration, which honors the military.
Pastor Leaman’s main goal for the upcoming season is the development of a personalized Bible study book to give the church people everything needed to start a Bible study with anyone, at any place, and any time. This is the essence of personal evangelism.
Another ministry tool to be developed by the pastoral staff is the Altar Tool Box. This tool box will contain everything needed to help a person who has been baptized or received the Holy Ghost before they leave the altar.
To reap the harvest of a 1,000-soul revival obviously demands the involvement of more than just the pastor. Pastor Leaman acknowledges this point when he declared, “It is imperative to empower those on our ministry team and congregants to get involved, see the need and do what needs to be done by giving, loving and reaching.” Concerning corporate involvement in evangelism he continued, “Evangelism … is the culture of our church. Everyone is involved even if just by word of mouth. We have every department assist in and support the efforts of the Outreach Department so all of these events are successful.”
Organization and Management
Pastor Leaman employs a structured, hands-on approach to organization and management. Ministries and department leaders meet monthly. Office and pastoral staff meet weekly and bi-weekly. Because of varied schedules of the leadership, meetings can be short, focusing on nothing but the most important points. In Saginaw, however, “meetings are long and extensive but they are productive as feedback and ‘issues’ are addressed and resolved,” said Pastor Leaman. Addressing the importance and effectiveness of leadership meetings, he added, “These meetings are the lifeline of keeping our vision at the forefront and always help our staff feel the pastor’s heartbeat.”
The accomplishment of goals is not achieved by accident. It requires planning. Pastor Leaman said, “We plan yearly, quarterly and monthly for what’s coming. This keeps each department accountable and helps us make sure we are not just adding stuff to the calendar that is not productive or the best we have to offer our saints and community.”
Proper training is vital to any and every level of ministry. Pastor Leaman encourages his staff to, “consistently seek new resources and to network with other churches.” They also take advantage of training opportunities offered by the district, as well as training at national conferences. Pastor Leaman is a big advocate of Bible school and Purpose Institute.
Any given church service will include a high level of involvement of children and youth ministries. Involvement of youth and children in all levels of ministry and leadership is important for the younger generations. “It helps us achieve buy-in from our young generations,” said Pastor Leaman. These young church members are taught
through ”Launch Your Ministry” and “Kids Reaching Kids” Bible study groups.
Approximately 75-80 percent of the members of Saginaw Valley UPC are involved in some form of ministry. The church is responsible for an impressive list of ministries. Besides those described above, other ministries include Anthem Student Ministries, Love and Respect Marriage Ministry, Vessels of Honor Ladies Ministry, MoMENtum Men’s Ministry, Seniors Ministry, Launch your Ministry, Hyphen, Van Ministry, United Praise and Ministry Team, I AM Global Missions Team, Iglesia Pentecostal Unida La Esperanza, Spirit of Freedom and Pastoral Care Team. The pastoral staff of Saginaw Valley UPC includes the pastor, operations pastor, ministries pastor and Spanish pastor.
Pastor Leaman considers their new building to be a miracle. In 2015, by faith, an aggressive educational building program was launched. Knowing the cost of a building would be approximately $130 per square foot, Pastor Leaman stepped out in faith and had architectural drawings completed. Negotiations began with the bank for a loan to begin to prepare the property for construction.
In the meantime, in 2016, a local Catholic church merged three of their locations into one, leaving a vacant building. The 29,500-square-foot building consists of a 500-seat sanctuary, six educational rooms, office suites, fellowship hall, full commercial kitchen, warming kitchen and a 3500-square-foot parsonage. All this was on 32 acres. The asking price was $1.2 million.
In June 2016, an offer for the entire complex was made for $650,000. By July, there was a purchase agreement for $740,000. Their first service in the building was on January 29, 2017. Pastor Leaman said, “We had plans but God opened an unexpected opportunity and blessed a church that had been faithful in giving, rewarding us with a much greater facility than we could have imagined.” A miracle indeed!
The desire for the future is to build a youth facility. Additionally, part of the new property once included a park open to the community. Pastor Leaman would like to see this part of the property open to the public once again.
Philosophy of Ministry
When asked about the guiding principles that give his ministry direction and purpose, Pastor Leaman said, “Whatever your hands find to do, you do it with all your ability.” He said you must, “give to a cause greater than yourself, and you cannot be self-focused.” The key to it all? “I believe the key is following the mission statement of the United Pentecostal Church — ‘the whole gospel to the whole world, by the whole church.’” He concludes, “Many people do not understand that it MUST be ‘by the whole church.’”
Pastor Leaman had a dream as a child of being a pastor. He felt the call to preach at around 17 years of age but says, “I wouldn’t really talk about it.” His favorite subject to preach is faith. He attended Apostolic Bible Institute for a short period and has had several men influence his ministry over the years. These include Bro. Paul Leaman (his father) and other family members such as Bro. James Merrick and Bro. Jack Leaman. He says he was “privileged to have great leadership through my whole life, men with great mission and vision.”
Indeed, the mission and vision of these great men of influence has brought results through the ministry of Pastor Kevin Leaman. In 2016, 53 were baptized in Jesus’ name and 15 filled with the Holy Ghost. Before the end of 2017, there were 34 baptized and 14 filled with the Holy Ghost. The Saginaw Valley UPC is experiencing this growth under Pastor Leaman’s leadership because of a vision for the future and for a 1,000-soul revival that is just waiting to be experienced!