Skip to main content

Matt Schulte


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.

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.

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.