For the first time in 15 years, Jordan Ringhofer has the opportunity to sit with his family during a church service. He’s also moved from the front to the back of Hope Kingsburg—the U.S. Mennonite Brethren church in Kingsburg, Calif., where Ringhofer formerly served as lead pastor—an ability afforded him as a result of his new role as Pacific District Conference (PDC) minister.
When Ringhofer left his position as lead pastor at Hope Kingsburg to become the new PDC district minister, it set into motion a swapping of roles, as interim district minister Dennis Fast passed the baton to Ringhofer and stepped in as interim lead pastor at Hope Kingsburg.
Ringhofer says he is excited to develop connections and be in conversation as he steps into his new role as a pastor for the district pastors.
“It’s being here for them and uniquely here for them in ways that other pastors can’t be because they have their congregations that they also have to be responsible for,” Ringhofer says.
Embracing Mennonite Brethren
Raised in a multidenominational background, Ringhofer (pronounced “Ringhoffer”) first learned about the Mennonite Brethren as a high school student wanting to be baptized at Neighborhood Church in Visalia, Calif. Ringhofer attended Fresno Pacific University, where he says he continued to learn what it means to be Mennonite Brethren. He was drawn especially to the Confession of Faith and the foundational Anabaptist beliefs.
“Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our lives, reconciliation is the center of our work,” Ringhofer says. “That struck a chord with me in the person of Jesus. I’ve chosen to be a part of this. I wasn’t born into it.”
Ringhofer’s wife, Tristan, however, was born and raised Mennonite Brethren at North Fresno (Calif.) Church.
The two met in the FPU choir. The couple has been married more than 15 years and has two sons, ages 6 and 4. Tristan teaches at Immanuel Schools in Reedley, Calif., where she also serves as the learning director at the elementary school.
Ringhofer says he originally planned to major in psychology with a minor in music and then considered accounting before choosing the path of ministry.
He has served in pastoral roles since his graduation from FPU in 2006 with his bachelor’s degree in contemporary Christian ministry and a minor in business administration. He served as youth and worship pastor at Kingwood Bible Church in Salem, Ore., for six years, before transitioning to Hope Kingsburg—then Kingsburg MB—for a two-year stint as associate pastor for youth and worship, before most recently serving as lead pastor there since 2014. He earned his master’s degree in Christian ministry from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary in 2019.
A new role
Ringhofer has served on the PDC executive board since 2011, and when former district minister Gary Wall announced his resignation in 2019, Ringhofer joined the search team for a new district minister, while Dennis Fast, on staff as associate pastor of care at Hope Kingsburg, stepped in as interim district minister.
For six months, Ringhofer says he resisted the idea of applying for the position, but as he and Tristan began praying more intently and intensely about it, the opportunity arose to reconsider.
Fast spoke with Ringhofer after a strategy meeting in April.
“I saw significant leadership gifts in Jordan that I felt would be effective in district leadership,” Fast says. “I felt we needed someone younger who could connect well with young and growing pastors. We needed someone decisive to handle difficult issues that arise in a denomination. And we needed someone with a strong commitment to Anabaptist theology to help navigate us in days when many voices call for attention theologically. I saw all of that in Jordan and recommended that he apply.”
So Ringhofer resigned from the search team, applied and was selected as the new district minister. He was installed as district minister the first weekend of October in a pair of services conducted on Zoom, including a Saturday service in Spanish and a Sunday afternoon service in English.
As someone who has chosen to be Mennonite Brethren, Ringhofer says he views his hiring—by a people group who he says has struggled to transition from being an ethnic group unified by cultural artifacts to a more diverse, yet committed, group—as evidence of a willingness to listen to one another and invest in a diverse approach.
“We’re a confessional people, which means that we recognize that there are certain things that we all mutually submit to, which is this confession of faith—this shared understanding of this is who God is, but then also within that that there is just exceptional diversity that is afforded,” he says, adding later:
“We can leave and go to any other denomination, any other church, at any time, yet we choose to be countercultural by saying we’re committed to one another, we’re going to be faithful to this family,” Ringhofer says. “That’s something that the world doesn’t really offer.”
A pastor for the pastors
A typical day, or at least a typical-in-a-pandemic day, for Ringhofer begins with a scan of his email inbox to respond to messages and finding the correct Zoom links for the calls he has on his schedule for the day.
Most surprising so far, he says, is simply the amount of reading—documents and emails—that is required, especially in the days leading up to meetings. (The interview for this story took place the week of the USMB board meetings).
“Right now when everything is a screen or a paper in front of you and very little human contact, it is surprisingly fatiguing to just sit down and read all that, and I like reading,” Ringhofer says. “I love reading books, I love reading anything.”
Key to the role is building relationships and being available. One of Ringhofer’s first goals is to organize consistent regional gatherings with lead pastors over Zoom.
The PDC is divided into five regions, and Ringhofer would like to begin meeting with regional pastors quarterly, or once a month if possible, to build relationship and awareness of resources available to them, whether expertise, young leaders, community-involvement or church-planting.
He plans to begin with English-speaking pastors and branch out from there. The PDC Hispanic Council has divided its churches into regions with regional pastors who Ringhofer says are doing an “excellent job of networking with one another.”
He’s learning Spanish and hopes to spend time building trust and extending an invitation for relationship.
“Making sure the churches know, particularly our ethnic churches, like our Spanish-speaking churches, our Russian Slavic churches, making sure they know that when we do come around, it’s not just because we’re trying to insert ourselves in their business or take over things, but that it’s just building relationship,” he says.
The pandemic has forced people to become familiar with Zoom and also placed a higher value on face-to-face gatherings.
“I think we’re going to start seeing greater attendance to the in-person gatherings when we do offer them, because I doubt we’ll offer them as frequently as we did, but yet now when we do offer them, it’ll be a time to get together with your friends and get together with this part of our family that we haven’t seen face to face other than on a screen,” Ringhofer says. “We are created to be an incarnational presence in people’s lives, not just a virtual presence.”
Looking ahead, Ringhofer is excited to be in conversations about stewardship of resources, especially as it pertains to church planting and church health.
“I look at where the conversations are at and where people’s hearts and motivations are, and as burnt out as we are on everything in the world around us, we see a significant swell of people that are saying, ‘We want to see people come to know Jesus. How do we use our resources and our time to make that happen?’” Ringhofer says. “That’s getting me excited.”