Ryan Rouse has had another career change, but he continues to lead children to Christ.
Rouse accepted the position of full-time youth pastor at First Baptist Church Winter Garden, following in the footsteps of Keith Yarborough, who held that job for more than 30 years.
For Rouse and his wife, Stacie, that meant returning to the United States from Haiti, where they had spent three years directing an orphanage through Cabaret Haiti Mission.
“When we moved to Haiti, people always asked how long we would be serving there,” Rouse said. “Our response was always, ‘As long as God wants us here, we will stay.’ At first we didn’t think our service in Haiti was over, but God made it clear that this was His plan.”
Prior to his service in the third-world country, Rouse was a youth pastor for 13 years in Clermont and Jacksonville and fully expected to remain in that capacity, leading youth mission trips and sharing God’s love with the teens and His purpose for them.
At First Baptist Winter Garden, his two main responsibilities are leading the youth group of sixth- through 12th-graders and overseeing all of the church’s missions priorities locally and globally.
Leslie Haurlebaus is his ministry assistant, “which is great because she is a great behind-the-scenes person that focuses on every little detail, while I’m more of a big-picture-type guy,” Rouse said.
Yarborough was Rouse’s youth pastor, and Rouse said he shaped him as a young person. Thus, their style of ministry is similar.
“Everything in our ministry will be centered around building closer relationships with each other and with God,” he said. “Because this is my style, I spend a lot of time investing in kids both individually and in groups.
“We open up our house a lot for kids to come hang out,” he said. “Also, my office is always open, and already it’s not uncommon for kids to come straight from school and just hang out and talk before they even go home.”
The Rouses are happy to be in Winter Garden, where he grew up.
“We love the community here, and First Baptist is where I attended until I took my first ministry job at First Baptist Clermont,” he said. “It’s really a dream job that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to have.”
He joins two other former First Baptist Winter Garden youth who now serve on staff: Will Blaine and Scott Brazell. Blaine said Rouse has a real servant’s heart and is a great addition to the ministry team.
“Ryan has a very relational approach with our youth, which has had a huge impact on building trust as he shares God's love with this next generation,” Blaine said. “Ryan came through the youth ministry here at First Baptist after my time, so I'm getting to experience first-hand why he is loved by so many. He is one of those guys that is ready to get in the trenches and help serve those that are often marginalized in our community.”
The Rouses have three children: Piper, 5; Hayden, 6; and Islanda, 14, who is in the process of coming to the U.S. from Haiti.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].