Many of Jared Huntsinger's Community Church students wanted to say goodbye at Sunday's gathering.
Sunday was a time for goodbyes at Rancho Murieta Community Church, as Jared Huntsinger, the youth minister, took part in his final services after 11 years there and prepared to take on a new post.
Huntsinger and his wife, Lisa, and their 2-year-old son, Jacob, will be moving to his new job at Horizon Community Church’s satellite campus in Lodi, which has about 100 members. He will be the lead pastor. Horizon is based in Galt and live-streams services to two satellite campuses.
Some 150 people came to the Rancho Murieta church, on Cantova Way, late Sunday afternoon to say their goodbyes. The gathering was not all serious.
The highlight was a slide show with photos of Huntsinger during his 11 years, many of them goofy shots. Pastor Ron Mitchell noted the number of hairstyles Huntsinger has sported and teased about his take-charge ways during the church’s annual missions to help Mexico’s poor.
He lauded Huntsinger’s gifts, encouraged him to follow his calling and concluded, “It sure would not surprise me to hear one day that you are teaching on some bible college or seminary campus, training a new generation of church leaders.”
Also in the slide show were the pranks Huntsinger’s students played on him in his closing days.
They lined his truck bed with tarps and then filled it with water and dumped in a big, live fish, fresh from one of Murieta’s lakes.
“They did it all during church, too,” Huntsinger said. “So I come out after church and all the kids are snickering, laughing, and I go around to my truck and there’s this fish. It was pretty good.”
But that wasn’t goodbye enough. Ten days later, during one of the evening youth services, they put 1,500 ladybugs in the truck and gathered to watch Huntsinger’s reaction.
“It was their way of saying goodbye to me,” he laughed in an interview.
Huntsinger figures he has worked with about a thousand area kids during his 11 years here. Many of the students present rushed to the front of the room to say goodbye at the end of Sunday afternoon’s gathering.
He said he has shared parting words with each of his high-schoolers.
“I can tell, it’s a difficult thing for a lot of our kids,” he said of his departure. “For all of our high school students, I wrote each a letter, voicing some of the strengths I see in them, areas that I want to encourage them to grow in, and just some memories that are fond for me.”
Huntsinger leads a class in the church's youth program, called The Refuge. "We wanted to create a refuge, a safe place for kids to come and learn about God and deal with the problems and challenges of being a teenager," he said. (Photo courtesy of Jared Huntsinger)