Skip to main content

Pastor Tom Barber


In 1969 he was chosen to travel and sing at venues around the world with a popular group called Up with People.

In 1975 he graduated from Pepperdine University on a full-ride scholarship.

In 1978 he received his MBA from Pepperdine.

In 1990 he managed a Kentucky-based company where he was making six figures and drove a Saab convertible.

“Now, I’m here,” said Pastor Tom Barber, CEO at the People’s City Mission.

Wait, what?

Pastor Tom casually plotted out his career history like he was reading off his resume. He’s straightforward like that, and not one to get caught up in the could-haves or would-haves of his past.

Tom laid out his career so plainly that I had to stop him and circle back to why and how he transitioned from big-time businessman to city mission visionary, and that’s where the story got interesting.

After graduating from college, Tom planned to work in full-time ministry, but thought he’d try his hand at the business world first. To his surprise, he was extremely successful. He quickly latched on to the principles and skills he needed to lead people and happily worked his way up a corporate ladder he never imagined himself climbing.

He was wealthy. His kids went to private school, he and his wife owned expensive cars and a lavish house – he was providing for his family and then some.

But in 1992 something just felt off.

Tom said it’s hard to explain, but he knew God was nudging him toward ministry again, and his wife felt the same way. So, they talked to their pastor. He told them about a job opening at Christ’s Place Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After an interview that went better than he expected and a surprisingly generous offer was made on their beautiful home, Tom said he knew it was time to move to Nebraska.

For the next decade or so, Tom worked at Christ’s Place Church, started a college ministry and  worked as a marketing professor… and then he heard about the job opening at the People’s City Mission.

At the time it was a small mission housing 80 people and helping about two to three thousand people in the city each year. Tom looked at the Mission and saw lots of potential.

Today the Mission has 210 beds, a separate veterans program, the third largest free medical clinic in the U.S. and in 2015 they served 33,000 people in Lincoln.

Wait, what?

Tom rattled off these facts much like his career history, boiling the difference down to his business-like approach to running the Mission. He played to his strengths and it’s working.

From recycling programs, giving away donated goods and connecting donors with the homeless, it’s all been an intentional way to serve better and serve more people in the process.

We’ll be honest, Tom is proud of that shift in statistics over the past 12 years, but he attributes it to more than just his presence at the Mission.

“People say ‘Aren’t you unbelievable!’ and I say no, it’s what God wanted me to do,” he said. “I think people think more highly of me than they ought to, but God’s hand is on us and I’m just using business truths to run this place.”

For Tom, getting to this point was about timing. He waited, he went and he stayed where he knew God wanted him to be.

He was hippie Tommy in college, Mr. Barber in the corporate world and now Pastor Tom at the Mission – all titles that built on each other in a way that he never could have mapped out himself.

It wasn’t easy, he admitted that much. Leaving a certain lifestyle, moving to a place that was far from friends and family, trying to understand poverty in a new city, but looking back, it’s almost comical to see the way each element of his story fits into a larger story, he said.

Tom’s story is about being where God wanted him to be, about obeying and using his skills for the task at hand.

Many times his story didn’t make sense, to him or those who looked on with skepticism. But it was about becoming Pastor Tom, and Tom loves being Pastor Tom.

Bryan Seck


When we got to the end of the interview, Bryan Seck said it felt a little strange being asked questions instead of asking them. He’s usually the one listening, so it was nice to be heard for a change, he said.

No, he’s not some kind of reporter or therapist.

Bryan Seck is the Lincoln Public Schools Homeless Outreach Specialist. A job where he meets with homeless families and connects them with the resources they need.

It’s a job which is anything but black and white. It’s busy and littered with messy situations, complicated agencies and a whole lot of chaos. But here’s the thing – Bryan isn’t a stressful person. He’s calm, relaxed, systematic and intentional.

Even though he’s only lived in Lincoln a little over two years, he has a better working knowledge of the community resources than most Lincoln natives.

Don’t mistake his cool head for apathy though, it’s actually the opposite. On any given day, Bryan is sitting down with a family to hear their story, picking up food and clothing, working out of his car or advocating for a child over the phone.

He knows how to change his tone when talking with a domestic violence victim to help them find stability, and is on a first-name basis with people at nearly every area agency to advocate for each family he meets. Bryan can be a quiet listener, or a fierce fighter to make the needs and voices of the homeless heard.

But in reality, he can only guarantee three things: kids are enrolled in school, have transportation to school and receive free and reduced lunch. Those are what he can provide for every homeless family in Lincoln.

Then, there’s the long list of people and circumstances that are 100 percent out of his control.

He can’t personally make sure people stay on the straight and narrow. He can’t physically turn in a job or housing application. He can’t emotionally manage the sad situations he sees each day.

But he can follow-up with people to check-in and give them a push. He can ask good questions, hear their stories and give them the names of people who can help. He can and has built strong partnerships with local shelters, food banks and faith-based organizations.

At the end of the day, Bryan has to let go. Not throw in the towel, but trust that he did everything in his power to help.

This has been hard for him to learn, and harder still to put into practice. Seeing and hearing so many stories can feel heavy.  Which is why he plays soccer a few times a week, processes his day with his wife and rests in the fact that he doesn’t do his work alone.

He collaborates with schools, counselors, social workers, psychologists and administrators who funnel needs and people to him. Without these people, he wouldn’t know who to help.

Bryan serves on half a dozen local boards – including the Lincoln Homeless Coalition – because he knows that transferring the knowledge and information he takes in every day to a room of problem-solving people can help him and the people he serves.

He’s one of many people in LPS and the city who hear the stories of the homeless community.

Yes, he has a big job, but he’s not alone.

If Bryan can get the small, quiet voices of the homeless heard then he’s done his job well, because being heard matters.

Close Menu
Follow along and be the first to know about our work, story series and general happenings.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.