Getting to Know . . .
Dr. Tom Ricks
Greentree Community Church
Tom Ricks, DMin, could be described as a person imbued with an abundance of infectious enthusiasm! And it’s no wonder, because he and the entire congregation of Greentree Community Church will soon witness their dream becoming reality. That dream is the opening of a brand new church building in downtown Kirkwood.
This two-story 27,000 square foot building will house the children’s ministry area on the lower level. The worship space, which seats about 400, and the church offices are located on the upper floor. Spacious meeting rooms will be available. There will be two worship services on Sunday morning as well as Sunday school classes for children and adults. Other services, on Sunday or during the week, may be added in the future.
The first service to be held in the new building is scheduled for Oct 4. For Tom, this will be an extra-special day. “I was born and raised in Kirkwood. I loved growing up here and loved watching my children grow up here as well,” he explains.
“My dad, Cappy, was a Kirkwood patrolman and later became a detective at the Kirkwood Police Department, working there for 27 years. He also served on the Major Case Squad. In the early ‘70s, he and his partner were recognized with a Medal of Honor for the apprehension and arrest of thieves involved in an in-progress armed robbery and break-in at St. Peter Church.
Three generations of Tom’s family have attended KHS. “My dad graduated from high school in 1945 when it was at Nipher, I graduated from KHS in 1977, my son, Nathan, in 2002, daughter Katie, in 2005 and son, Jordan, in 2010.”
After graduating, he attended Covenant College, a small Presbyterian college on top of Lookout Mountain just outside of Chattanooga. “It was a beautiful school with about 600 students. The size of my KHS graduating class was 618, so I went from a class size larger than the entire student body of my college. Regardless of size, it was a great place to go and a great college to attend.”
Tom became an avid ice hockey player at an early age. “When I was 8, the Blues came to town and one of my uncles became an original season ticket holder. He took me to see a game and that was it – I came home and pleaded for my parents to buy me a pair of hockey skates. I started playing at the outdoor rink at the Kirkwood Community Center and then all the way through high school with the Kirkwood Youth Hockey Association (KYHA), even played a little pick up hockey in college. Both of my sons played KYHA and I got to coach both of them which has been one of my great joys!”
“I was on the staff at Central Presbyterian in Clayton until 1998. For the last two years I was there and following the death of the previous pastor, I was named interim lead pastor. I held this position until a search could be conducted and a new lead pastor selected to take his place. “During this time period, several Kirkwood residents who were attending Central shared the fact they always left Kirkwood to go to church, and they would like to have a church that really represents our faith here in the community.
“At the same time, my wife Cindy and I were building a house on my grandmother’s property on Nirk Ave, just south of Kirkwood Park, which was next door to my parent’s home where I lived and grew up. This came about when my grandparents died. One day my Dad asked me if I had a dollar in my pocket. I said yes, pulled it out and handed it to him. He said, ‘fine – now the property next door is yours. Why don’t you build your house there,’ and we were thrilled. Soon, the Ricks family will celebrate 100 years of living on Nirk Ave.
“When these friends started talking about planting this church in Kirkwood, I told them I’d love to come and partner with them. So I got to come back home. I don’t know how many pastors get to minister in their own hometown, but I doubt there are many.”
So Tom became the first lead pastor of Greentree Community Church, a position he has held for the last 17 years. “Our denomination is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) but we don’t make a big deal about our affiliation. We know a lot of people are spiritual and are trying to figure out exactly what they believe about God. When they see a denominational name, they might assume that if they are not a member of that denomination, the church probably isn’t for them. We like to invite you come and see if faith is for you. If you connect to our message, we can fill in the blanks later, and one of the blanks is the EPC denomination. We want everyone to feel welcome.
One of our core values is that we renew communities, so from day one we have said we don’t want to be a great church in Kirkwood; we want to be a church that helps keep Kirkwood great. “I always preach to our people that it’s not enough for you to say I really love my church and I contribute to it. Our church needs to contribute to our community, our church needs to make our community a great place to be. I think our church tries to do this, and I think our new building will help us to continue doing this.
“We want to be partners with folks on many levels. We want to be supportive of businesses. When folks leave here after services, I think the Sunday lunch traffic is really going to pick up in downtown Kirkwood.” This is one of the reasons the church has become a member of the Kirkwood-Des Peres Area Chamber of Commerce Greentree
Community Church’s Story
The seeds of Greentree Community Church were first planted in 1996, when a group of people began to pray about establishing a new church in the Kirkwood community. On Jan. 5, 1997, about 60 people met for Sunday morning worship at a local school, and Greentree Community Church was born. Tom Ricks accepted the call to serve as lead pastor of Greentree in Jan 1999, and Greentree has continued to grow under his leadership.
For over 14 years, the congregation has worshiped on Sunday mornings at North Kirkwood Middle School. “We love Kirkwood, and want to be involved in the life of our community. Our thought was what better way to do this than in one of our schools,” Tom explains.
“However, about five years ago, we began to sense that God was directing us to put down roots and find a permanent worship and ministry home in Kirkwood from which to love and serve those around us. In Dec. 2012, we purchased property in downtown Kirkwood and are greatly anticipating celebrating our first services in our new home on Sunday, Oct. 4.
“We enjoy a contemporary style of worship and a casual style of dress on Sunday mornings. Our worship times are at 9 and 10:30 a.m., with a time for fellowship, donuts and coffee between the services. Childcare is provided during both services for babies through three years of age. Sunday morning classes are available for all ages at 9 a.m.”
Greentree Community Church, for many, is not only their spiritual family, but also their only family. “We are not perfect people, but we are open to the Holy Spirit showing and teaching us the way He wants us to change and grow. Greentree Community Church is comprised of sinners who are dependent on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Spurred on by a love for Jesus Christ and for each other, we desire to be a church that welcomes and invites people to investigate the claims of Christ and to ‘know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they too may be filled with all the fullness of God.’”
Greentree Community Church's mission statement has three practical components: Grow Disciples, Renew Communities and Plant Churches. “Church Planting is simply a term that means beginning a new church in an area, town or city. From our earliest days as a new church plant, we have been intentional about planting other new churches in St. Louis and beyond. It is exciting to see God's love for his people as he works to call them to himself. So we continue to set aside a portion of our budget for the beginnings of additional churches in the future.
“As our name says, community is a big part of our identity and our goal has been to begin other churches that will place a high value on impacting their immediate surroundings with the gospel of Jesus.
“For over 16 years, we have been a part of planting several churches including The Crossing in Columbia, Missouri; Riverside Church in Webster Groves and City Church in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of downtown St. Louis. We have also invested heavily in the All Souls church plant in Boulder, Colorado.”
What Does It Take To Plant a New Church?
• A target area that is void of significant church presence (church congregations in the US are actually shrinking, not growing)
• A core group of committed members who will live in the target area and take significant leadership responsibility for beginning the new church
• A church planting pastor who has been trained in new church development and has been approved by our denomination for church planting
• A significant financial investment on the part of the parent church. Greentree Community Church has invested well over $1 million in starting these new churches over the years.
For Additional Information
For additional information about Greentree Community Church, call 909.9197 or visit online at www.greentreechurch.com