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20 under 40: BJ Leonard, missions pastor at First Christian Church

20 under 40: BJ Leonard, missions pastor at First Christian Church

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BJ Leonard

Age: 36

Occupation: Missions pastor at First Christian Church

Family: Married to my wife, Mary, of 13 years. They are the parents of Hannah (8), twins Lydia and Mia (6), and Dominic (3).

Career highlights and/or accomplishments: Since moving to Decatur in 2010, I began expanding the Club 305 after-school program for Parsons Elementary School students, created the free Jumpstart Back-to-School Clinic that now provides hundreds of free physicals each year, established a system for taking medical mission teams to Kenya, created a community development initiative in the GM Square neighborhood, helped launch the Arts Academy which provides free instruction in the arts, and helped to establish Night to Shine, a prom experience for individuals in our community with special needs. Along with being a pastor and afterschool program director, I also have been an adjunct professor, published several magazine articles, and served on a number of community boards.

I received bachelors and masters degrees from Lincoln Christian University and Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Community involvement: I lead aspects of the Annual WSOY Community Food Drive, am co-director of Night to Shine, leads the Jumpstart Back-to-School Clinic, oversees chaplaincy partnerships at DMH and Crossing Healthcare, provides pastoral leadership at Parsons Elementary School and the Club 305 after school program in partnership with DPS 61 and the One School One Church Initiative, and lives with my family on North Church Street in the GM Square Neighborhood.

What should the community do to attract more young people to the area: Decatur is a great community that is able to come together in powerful ways. While there are challenges, such as all communities have, there are also opportunities for each of us to invest in the lives of others and make a real difference. Decatur can attract and retain more young people by prioritizing investment in the next generation.

What would your perfect Saturday be like? A perfect Saturday would be spent outdoors with family and friends.

Who inspires you to be better? Other practitioners, friends, mentors, and my wife.

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