For 25 years, there has been a common thread tying together the work of Pastor Todd and Pastor Jamie Bruning. That thread?
Children and youth ministry … interconnected through music and theater.
When their son, Nikhil, was diagnosed with Autism Spectum Disorder at 18 months they realized much of their approach might need to change. And it has. In addition to his membership at Mt. Olive, Nikhil is also a member at Highland Park United Methodist Church on the SMU Campus. At 8:30 AM on Sunday mornings they participate in The Feast, a worship service crafted by the Belong Disability Ministry of HPUMC. Nikhil is preparing to sing some day in the Kingdom Singers, the choir that helps lead the service, and he was confirmed in February of 2020.
Pastor Todd calls Chance’s Pie and Coffee Shop, the vocational preparation program for the Belong Disability Ministry, his Day Job. Four days a week he trains adults with disabilities to run and manage the coffee shop. And on Sundays he preaches and presides over worship at Mt. Olive. He also leads ZOOM Bible Studies and ZOOM Companionship Training. Companionship is a ministry of Mt. Olive, similar to Belong, focusing on folks in Fair Park with mental health, addiction health, and housing anxiety concerns.
Pastor Todd has developed a fascination with the emerging church and believes that service oriented young adults are the key to a vibrant faith community. He and Pastor Jamie have trained dozens of young disciples and ministers through organizations like Luther Seminary, Youth Leadership, Youth Encounter, the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, Arrow Outreach and Lutheran Partners in Global Mission … in Africa, Asia, and Mexico … in the inner cities of Chicago and Detroit … and right here in Texas!!
Before Nikhil’s diagnosis, Todd was Senior Pastor at Resurrection in Plano, TX, whose youth group still partners in important ways with the Mt. Olive Food Pantry. He also has served Rejoice in Coppell, TX, Peace in Charlotte, MI, and Immanuel in Mt. Pleasant, TX. But his favorite year in ministry may have been as a Mission Developer in Ionia, Michigan where he helped lead ministries in four of the six prisons in town. Before seminary Todd was a Social Services Family Therapist in Rockford, Illinois (where he grew up). His connections to inner city work started there with organizations like Mosaic, Hi Neighbor, Family Advocate, Upward Bound, JTPA, and the church where he first learned gospel music … Washington Park. Watch out … he’s a talker … and he loves to tell those stories!!!
Along with his Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary, Pastor Todd holds degrees in Counseling and Organizational Psychology, both from Texas A&M and Northern Illinois Universities. Away from the church, you might find him on his bicycle, on the tennis court, playing his guitar, or most importantly, spending time with his adult daughter and young son … and their many nearby cousins.
But what he loves to do most is … sing. Especially with somebody else. Like his wife and family. Or you. And your family. Especially if you like acappella, the spirituals, gospel, Broadway, Swahili, country rock, Christian contemporary, or chamber music too!