Interview by Uriah Young
QFTD: Tell us about yourself. Who is Jim Hart?
Jim: I am a man who wears many hats: husband, father, pastor, professor, and business owner. I’ve been married for ten years, and I have three wonderful sons. At Abundant Life Church, I am a pastor and the Director of Church Development. In addition, I teach college graduate courses at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work. Lastly, I have my own counseling practice that focuses on strengthening relationships between couples.
QFTD: What was your journey like becoming a pastor?
Jim: When I came to Rutgers in 1997, I began attending Abundant Life Church. There, I fell in love with the spiritual experience, including the praise and worship. I was just a normal guy, who eventually wanted to help the church in any way I could. My senior year, I felt a calling to do more. So, I entered a minister-in-training program, while earning a master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University in the process. Then, a spot opened up in the church to oversee ministries and counsel others. I was appointed to be an elder for several years and was later elevated to pastor. I can honestly say though that I never chased a title; I just wanted to serve the church. I learned during my journey that if you are faithful with small opportunities, bigger opportunities open up. And now, I get to do a job that I consider a privilege. When I became a pastor, I wanted to leave Abundant Life better than it was when I got there.
QFTD: In addition to being a pastor, you are also a relationship counselor. What is the focus of your practice, and what is your goal for each couple you counsel?
Jim: I primarily focus on helping engaged couples and married couples build relationships that last a lifetime. I am best suited to help these people work through several challenges when it comes to relationships. One of the biggest challenges is getting couples just to make time to get help. Whether it’s balancing busy schedules or finding childcare to free up time for counseling, couples may want to get help, but they’re so busy, it becomes a challenge. Also, being afraid someone will find out a couple’s business can cause reluctance. So, I have implemented a strategy for my practice that allows couples to get valuable feedback about relationships, privately and conveniently.
QFTD: And what would that strategy be?
Jim: What I do is provide a “coaching session” over the phone for couples that value privacy and the convenience of being in a setting of their choice. For instance, I will have 30 couples on the line, where no one knows anyone’s name, yet every couple can ask questions via email or text message. Once information is anonymously shared on the coaching call, everyone can listen to the various subjects as I lead the coaching session.
QFTD: The privacy and convenience of what you described sounds like they can break through those obstacles you previously mentioned.
Jim: Absolutely. And the best part is that when the call is over, each couple can talk immediately about what was discussed. I also provide exercises for couples to do because there are subsequent sessions where we all would meet again on a connected phone call. Another great thing about the phone coaching sessions is that couples can send questions in to me before the call begins. Even the most intimate questions can be sent via text message while your partner is sitting next to you, without them even knowing it.
QFTD: How have the coaching sessions been going?
Jim: Very well! I have been doing them for over a year, and I have had 80 couples from states like Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and even Washington D.C. conversing about many important relationship topics. By word-of-mouth, the valuable dialogue through my sessions has brought others to the coaching calls.
QFTD: On top of your college teaching and your pastoral/counseling duties, you also serve as a wedding official. The last few years, you have officiated many weddings and gotten excellent reviews. How do you approach such an important event, knowing there are certain stress factors involved for the bride and groom?
Jim: First of all, I take it very seriously because a marriage ceremony is no ordinary experience. I know I have to be prepared to listen and ask the right questions. I must get all the details down. It is a production in a sense, and the more prepared I am, the smoother the day will go. The planning and effort involved is very significant.
QFTD: Did you ever think you would be licensed to marry couples?
Jim: I never set out to do them, but opportunities arose soon after I became a pastor. Because I am affiliated with Rutgers University, my name is connected to the chapel there. My name got on the list of ministers qualified to marry couples, and I began getting calls. Today, I just feel blessed to be a part of a couple’s milestone. Being connected to people on their special day feels good.
QFTD: What brings you joy in everything you do?
Jim: Joy starts at home. Zig Ziglar, in one of his books, talked about how a man who has “Home Court Advantage” can conquer the world. Little things that bring me joy, like me coming home to my wife and kids happy to see me, mean a lot. If you come home to strife and isolation, it’s no good for the spirit. Professionally, the coaching calls are great. The feedback I get when people tell me they were able to work through their issues brings me joy. There is nothing like sitting with a couple and seeing them “get it” after what we discussed got them to take their guard down. I also love getting the chance to preach and having people later tell me that something I said helped them transform their lives.
QFTD: What is coming up for you in the future?
Jim: I have a new round of coaching calls coming this month. If couples want, they can register before February 12thto participate in the calls. The first call will cover "Love in Marriage." The second call will cover "Roles & Responsibilities in Marriage." The third will cover "Blended Families in Marriage." And the fourth will cover "Forgiveness in Marriage." There won't be another round of calls until September. In the summer, I have a wedding I am conducting, and I hope to be teaching at Rutgers during that time frame. By the end of the year, my goal is to finish a book I have been working on.
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