Matt Schulte never imagined raising his family in Lincoln, but that’s what he’s doing.
Lincoln was where he spent a good chunk of his childhood. It’s where his dad ran a ministry, where he started school and played sports. But for whatever reason, as Matt got older he just couldn’t picture himself living in Lincoln.
Now, he can’t picture his life anywhere else.
If Matt’s name sounds familiar it could be for one of two reasons. He’s on the Lincoln Public Schools school board and he’s the executive director of the ministry Youth For Christ.
Between his two roles, Matt has a lot of connections to youth in Lincoln. He sees the enrollment numbers, financials and school growth as a school board member, and he sees those numbers come to life as he mentors kids in detention centers, kids in Geometry or teen parents.
But again, this was never in Matt’s plan.
Matt graduated from high school, attended college in Arkansas and after his freshman year, took a break from school.
Matt said he needed some perspective. He liked school, was doing well, but wanted some time to really test out his major – Should he go into education like he planned? Or do ministry like his dad?
Matt spent four months attending a language school in Guatemala, another four months as an intern for Campus Life and his last four months working in the Dominican Republic.
When he came back to the states and enrolled in school again, he knew he wanted to pursue non-profit ministry. Which meant when he graduated, he would leave the country again.
Matt traveled around Central America working with various ministry organizations. He loved speaking the language, exploring different cultures and getting to know the people he was in community with on a daily basis. It was during his traveling that he met his wife, Kristin. They shared a love for travel, cultures and ministry and the two got married shortly after meeting.
They continued to travel and work in Central America until six years ago when they moved their family to Lincoln.
At the time they had two young children and one on the way, and life abroad was beginning to be too much for them to keep up with. Matt had heard that the Youth For Christ ministry in Lincoln needed some additional help and decided it was the right time for his family to make the move.
That’s how Matt ended up back in Lincoln. He found himself working into the role that his dad had when he was a kid – the executive director for Youth for Christ – and something about it felt familiar and right, but also very different.
Matt worked to expand the ministry, growing it in size but also in scope. Youth For Christ now has a ministry for teen parents and incarcerated youth.
It’s through his work in ministry that Matt has come to understand Lincoln again, specifically Lincoln’s youth. Whether it’s the stories he hears through his staff members or interactions he has on a daily basis with kids, Matt knows the stories of Lincoln’s youth better than most people in town.
Matt said his work has helped him believe in the Lincoln community, which ultimately led him to run for the LPS school board in 2014.
He secured a spot on the board, winning in a 3 percent margin over the incumbent.
Being on the school board has been a huge learning curve, Matt said. His decisions impact 40,000 kids in Lincoln, and he’s convinced, more than ever, that the local school board needs the community’s attention.
When the school board discusses enrollment numbers, bussing or financial reports, Matt can think of specific kids and families who will be impacted by these decisions. His two jobs just make sense together.
His career choices also have deep family ties. Not only was his dad the area director for Youth For Christ, but his mom was also on the school board. Matt said he remembers his mom inviting members of the teachers union into their living room to have discussions about the contract negotiations. It was serious stuff and it showed Matt how involved his parents were in their community.
Now, he’s the one setting that example for his four kids. Matt said he’s very aware of his impact in the community, but he’s also aware of the little sets of eyes who watch their dad interact with the community each day.
Matt didn’t plan on coming back to Lincoln. He didn’t plan to run a ministry like his dad or be on the school board like his mom, but that’s how it played out.
He’s proud of his story, of the way he’s serving his community from two similar but very different places. He’s happy to be in Lincoln again, and to help make the city the best place it can be.