Laughter from the Parsonage--Meet Rev. James Snyder
Interview by Lynda Schab
FWM: I canít tell you how privileged I feel to be conducting this interview! Youíre one of the "classics" at FaithWriters. Youíve been a member since 2003 and your work was among the very first I read after joining myself. Iím looking forward to uncovering the layers that make up the Rev. James Snyder. So letís get started!
First things first. Tell us a little about yourself and the church you pastor.
REV. JAMES: My wife and I moved to Ocala, FL in 1995 to assume the pastorate here. The church at the time was one of those infamous "Snow-bird churches," where you had lots of people during the winter and hardly anybody during the summer. It was hard to adjust to that sort of thing. The church was small and dwindling. People died, went into nursing homes, or just wouldnít come back the next winter.
The church building itself was located in the middle of medical buildings, so we did not have an identifiable neighborhood to minister to. God led us to sell that building and relocate the church. We restarted the church about 10 miles away in a newly developing neighborhood. That was 6 years ago! Today we have a large church building and Children's Activity Center on a lovely 13-acre property. The best part is it is all paid for, thanks to the sale of the old building.
My wife and I work as a team here in the church. She works as my secretary, which means I tell her what to do at work and she tells me what to do at home. It seems to work out quite well.
FWM: You recently started a ministry for pregnant teens. What, exactly, does that ministry involve and why are you passionate about this program?
REV. JAMES: Several years ago God laid on us a burden to open a home for pregnant teens. It was one of the reasons we located to this 13-acre property--so we would have plenty of space to build the home. We went through all the tedious channels and finally, in February, we received our "special use" permit to build 6 residential homes to house 48 girls. Our philosophy of ministry is that we do it all debt-free. Since we are a small congregation, this will require a lot of faith on our part. However, "Where God guides He always provides."
Our ministry will be under the Florida Association of Christian Child Care Affiliates and not be licensed by the state, nor will we receive any state or federal monies to run the ministry. We want this to be a true ministry of faith, trusting God for every aspect. Our belief is that these young girls, and some of them as young as 11 years old, have deep spiritual needs from which only Christ can deliver them. We believe that God can set them free from addictive behaviors as well as clean up their life--spiritually, emotionally and physically. After all, He is the Great Physician.
The ages of these girls will be from 10 to 17 years. Our primary emphasis will be on the young girl. We are against abortion and desire to save babies, but the girls come first. They need to be ministered to from the get-go, as they say. We want them to enter just as they are with all the problems and difficulties that come with this culture and we want them to leave our ministry as godly young women whose lives honor and glorify God.
Our first building will go up this fall and, God willing, we shall be in operation by the end of this year. There are currently many obstacles standing in our path, but God is able.
FWM: So much of your writing revolves around the "Mistress of the Parsonage," the wonderful, ever patient, Mrs. Snyder. Your stories are, much more often than not, laced with humor, but it couldnít be more evident how much you love your wife, which endears you to your readers in a huge way. Take a moment to brag on your wife. And does she always have final approval of the articles you write in which she plays a main character?
REV. JAMES: After many years in the ministry, one thing I have noticed is that most pastors' wives do not get the credit or recognition they deserve. In my opinion, the pastor cannot function apart from his faithful companion Tonto. (Oh, sorry, that's the Lone Ranger.) The truth of the matter is the pastor's wife is just as important in the ministry as the pastor. No pastor could do all he is called to do, as well as some things he's not called to do, if it wasn't for his wife. Pastor's wives come under as much, if not more, stress than their husbands. I decided that our ministry should be a team ministry.
I stumbled on the phrase "Mistress of the Parsonage" by accident. I wanted to put a little mystery and romance into an otherwise dull parsonage life. She is truly the MP of our parsonage, I assure you.
As to final approval, no. I would never put her in a situation that would in any way diminish her as a person or woman. After almost thirty-five years of marriage, I think I know pretty well what would offend or upset her. I write a weekly newspaper column that goes into 18 different newspapers and after that column is published I publish it in tract form for our congregation. My wife is in charge of that so she eventually reads everything I write anyway.
FWM: You have a very impressive writing resumeí with articles for over eighty publications, including Guideposts Magazine. Youíve written several books, including the award winning biography on the life of A.W. Tozer. You pen a weekly humor column for Family of God Fellowship, as well as continue pumping out articles for FaithWriters and other Christian writing sites. Did your passion for writing always exist or did it evolve after you got started in ministry?
REV. JAMES: As a young person, I had a passion to write--mostly outdoor stories and adventure stories that boys like to read. One of my favorite authors was Corey Ford, who wrote a monthly column for Field & Stream called THE LOWER FORTY GANG. Of course I read everything by Jack London and others along that line. When I became a Christian I thought I had to give up any aspirations for writing. I don't know why I thought that, but I did at the time. I became a Christian and, shortly after, surrendered my life for fulltime service.
It was not until my first pastorate that I realized writing could be an extension of my pastoral work. I immediately began writing a weekly sermon for the local paper where we lived at the time. One thing led to another and I experienced an enlarged ministry through writing. Since then I have been published in 80 different magazines and journals, I've published nine books and also write a weekly and monthly column which are both syndicated in several markets and growing.
FWM: Tell us a little about what a typical day in the life of Reverend James Snyder consists of.
REV. JAMES: I'm not sure what "typical" means, but I try to get up before lunch everyday. After all, I don't want to miss the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage's scrumptious noontime repast, which may explain why I am fast approaching 900 pounds on the bathroom scale.
Apart from that little aside, my daily routine is not so much typical as I would like it to be. I try to spend quality time cultivating my devotional life. It seems to me that this is the most important part of every day. I must confess to be quite addicted to Oswald Chamber's My Utmost For His Highest. No morning is quite complete without my daily Utmost.
I believe a writer's growth is in direct proportion to his reading. I don't think it really matters what a person is reading, as long as it is good writing. And I can almost always tell if a writer is growing by reading several pieces they have recently written.
As for myself, every time I write something I am exposing myself--who I am and what I am. I have so much to do--writing, preaching, administration--that I must discipline myself to read as much as I can. I sometimes read books by authors I disagree with in order to know how the "other side" is thinking. I sometimes discover the "other side" is not thinking, which always gives me pause for thought. Regardless, I am never without a book of some sort, no matter where I go. I try to read between 3-5 books a week, of which I often exceed. In addition, I do a weekly radio show which necessitates research and writing.
FWM: Up to this point, you have clearly achieved many extraordinary goals. You have a beautiful wife and family, youíre a successful pastor and writer. You are involved in various areas of ministry. Are there any other aspirations or dreams still pressing upon your heart that you havenít yet achieved but are determined to in this lifetime?
REV. JAMES: One thing I have been toying with is writing a series of Christian Comedy Novels. There does not seem to be much of those on the market at this time and I surmise there is a good market for it. Some things can be said through humor that would not be accepted straight on. I have been working on some ideas and hope to have something to publish next year.
Also, I'm in the process of reissuing the award-winning Tozer biography, along with ten sermons he preached during his ministry. I've collected hundreds of Tozer tapes and could produce about 8 new Tozer books. I'm working with a new publisher, and there are plans to reissue this work through Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million this August. I'm excited about the potential of this project.
FWM: One final question: Motherís Day is this month and since you've celebrated about thirty of them with your wife (WOW!), many would consider you an expert! So let me ask: do you have any gift ideas for the men out there doing some last minute Mother's Day shopping for their wives? And how can husbands make their wives feel special on their special day?
REV. JAMES: Buying presents has not been my strong suit. I prefer a nice plaid suit, personally. Every husband has to draw the line somewhere and this is where I draw the line.
I asked my wife about this and she said, "Well, diamonds are a girlís best friend." She said it with such an attitude that it took me back a little. At first I thought I was in a corner, but then a thought flashed through my weary mind and so I replied, "But honey," (they always like these affectionate names) "youíre not a girl anymore."
I must say, this did not go down as well as I thought. Men love to get older; in fact, we boast on how old we really are; "Not bad," we say, "for an old man." Women do not boast about how old they are and are indignant when the subject is brought up.
Through the years I have used one sure-fire reply. "But, honey, youíre not my mother."
With that she sent me to my room without supper.
FWM: As always, Reverend Snyder, you made me laugh! Iíve so enjoyed chatting with you. Thanks for letting us get to know you a little better. May God largely bless your new ministry for pregnant teens, your marriage, your church, and your future writing projects.
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