For much of his childhood, Rev. Joshua Haney thought he wanted to be a police officer.
“I started praying about it. I basically felt that the Lord was leading me in the direction of becoming a pastor instead,” he said.
In 2005, the Cincinnati native graduated from Crown College with a Bachelor of Biblical Studies degree.
The following year, Haney received a Master of Ministry there, and last month, he became the new senior pastor at First Baptist Church, in Waupaca.
“I grew up in the church,” he said. “I came from a Christian family. I went to a Christian school similar to the one here.”
Haney was about 16 years old when he began thinking about college and what he wanted to pursue.
Through prayer, he felt the call to ministry.
“I had a lot of good influences,” he said. “My parents were good Christians, but there were also men in the church who took me under their wing.”
Haney explained how he came to attend Crown College, in Knoxville, Tenn.
“My pastor’s son was actually a student there at the time,” he said.
The Bible college started in 1991.
“It was kind of a spirit of pioneering at the school,” Haney said.
He and his wife Hannah met when he was a student at the college.
Her two brothers also attended the school, and Haney was good friends with them.
The couple was married in 2006, after he received his master’s degree.
Haney became an assistant pastor and youth pastor at a church in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“We were there a little over a year, and I really couldn’t shake the desire to be a senior pastor,” he said. “I loved the job there, working with young people, but wanted to work with the whole family.”
The pastor of the church that his wife had grown up in was his main ministry mentor.
“He told me about a church in south Florida without a pastor,” Haney said. “There were six people there when we got there. They voted me in. When we left, the church was in the mid 50s. It took seven years.”
Haney visited First Baptist Church in January.
“It felt like negative 87, coming from Florida,” he said of the temperature at the time of his visit. “Strangely enough, I turned down the offer the first time.”
Haney said there were two reasons why he intially turned it down.
“I didn’t know if I was ready for a church of over 200 people,” he said.
In addition, there was the idea of making the move from Florida to Wisconsin.
“My wife is a Florida girl,” he said.
However, Hannah is one of the reasons why he reconsidered.
When the church approached him a second time last February, Haney’s whole family made the trip to Waupaca.
The couple has two sons – 6-year-old Charlie and 2-year-old Jackson – and two daughters – 4-year-old Madison and 5-month-old Kinsley.
They jokingly told Madison there is a “city in Wisconsin named after her,” Haney said.
He said, “My wife, despite being a Florida girl, was very excited about the opportunity here. That helped me reconsider it.”
After the family returned to Florida, the church gave them a week to talk and pray about it.
“I actually said, ‘Yes,’ I think the last day of that week,’” Haney said. “My mentor in ministry always told me, ‘Make a decision and don’t look back.’ I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision for the church, ministry and my family.”
They arrived in Waupaca on May 21, and his first Sunday at the church was on May 25.
Rev. Larry Gross, First Baptist Church’s former pastor, has retired and is helping Haney with the transition.
Haney is grateful for that.
The couple is now working at getting settled into the community, and Haney says he is excited about the potential and the future.
He is one class away from having a Master’s degree in Christian counseling and will complete that work here.
At First Baptist, his plans include revamping the church’s website and branching out into social media.
“In the future, we will be looking to hire a full-time youth pastor, as well as being able to do the music ministry,” Haney said.
He wants to see the church and school do more outreach in the community.
“We’re trying to expand the school and see it grow more,” he said. “We have a definite vision for expansion. We’re trying to reach and help individuals and families. We offer lots of programs. I want to see them become stronger in outreach, in influence and in helping those who are taking advantage of those programs.”
The church will have a special New Pastor Sunday on June 29, a float in the July 4 parade, Vacation Bible School Aug. 4-8 and a fall festival.
“We’re trying to get the church and its name out in the community more,” Haney said. “We’re a church where everyone is welcome.”