Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Bennett
Ryan Bennett grew up with a “drug problem,” but it was not the type of drug problem that you might expect. His parents drug him to church, and it took quite a while for faith to become his own rather than just his parents’ faith. When he was young, he participated in a confirmation class; however, by the end of it, he was not yet ready to profess faith.
Some time later, Ryan attended a Promise Keepers event and felt God’s love for the first time in his heart. He decided to profess faith publicly and to join the church. When he took this step of faith, Ryan also began to feel called to ministry. This calling was quite overwhelming for him at that time so he went to his home church pastor to help him discern.
Ryan completed a degree in kinesiology. While working at a physical therapy clinic, he also got involved with his local church’s youth group and took several trips with them. As he worked in physical therapy, people came to him hurt and broken, and he helped to heal them. This helped to develop his call to ministry. He knew that helping the hurt and broken get well was his passion, and he began to see himself doing this through ministry as well. He took a job as a youth pastor to try to get his pastoral ministry calling “out of his system” before he began his master’s in physical therapy.
While serving as a youth director, he met his wife at that church. She did not desire to be a pastor’s wife, so Ryan convinced her that he was “just a youth pastor.” However, they could both see that God was calling Ryan to be a pastor as his primary vocation.
Ryan began to look into attending seminary, and he was determined not to go into debt. Sewanee Episcopal gave him a scholarship but then soon revoked it. This left Ryan confused and looking for other options. When a friend told him, “go check out Asbury,” God stirred his heart toward coming to Asbury. God came through for him with scholarships and help from others so that he could attend Asbury and not acquire debt.
During his time at Asbury, Ryan commuted into Wilmore from his pastoral job that he worked while studying. He and several other students who were also pastors commuting into Wilmore rented out the Wilmore campground for about $7 a night. These men built a strong community, and they endearingly referred to themselves as the “Leper Colony.” He has fond memories of playing cards until the early hours of the morning as well as hosting worship services on Tuesday nights. The word spread about their worship services, and it grew to over 100 people who joined them in worship. Rev. Bennett is thankful for his time at Asbury as he grew and prepared for a life of ministry.
Rev. Bennett’s ministry has always been in the local church, and he also participated in entrepreneurial ministry with the Nashville Sound for seven years. They would host “faith nights,” which consisted of a Christian concert before the game, player testimonies, and preaching. Ryan also had the opportunity to served as a chaplain for the Tennessee legislature.
Ryan’s wife, Heather, completed a master’s degree in Sustainability. Through this passion for sustaining God’s creation, both Ryan and Heather serve and lead with the Blessed Earth ministry organization. Blessed Earth’s mission is to inspire faithful stewardship of all creation and promote Sabbath-keeping. Ryan has served on Blessed Earth’s board for decades. He and his wife recently began Blessed Earth Southeast, and they currently serve as the Co-Directors.
Rev. Bennett most recently served as the head pastor of Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tennessee for almost nine years. He is currently serving as the head pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, and he asks for prayers as his family continues to transition to their new home.
Ryan has been married to his wife, Heather, for eighteen years. They have an eight year old son, Tyler, whom they adopted. Ryan enjoys going out to the lake because he feels peace on the water, and he also enjoys roasting coffee beans.
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