New Baptist pastor Rick Wiles (right) with wife Joyce and son Mike
While the Wiles family had been to Grand Canyon “as typical tourists” in the past, they hadn’t considered the possibility of moving into ministry here until some friends told them about the opportunity.
“We didn’t even know people lived here,” Wiles said. “But we prayed about it and felt like God wanted us to do this. Then, the more we talked with the people here, the more we were impressed with their vision. That sealed the deal.”
That vision – one of a church acting on its faith through the lifestyle choices of its people – is one that Wiles plans to nurture.
“They have a real desire to meet the needs of the community and share their faith on a daily basis by the way they live their lives,” he said.
Wiles has been in ministry with the Southern Baptist Church for 20 years, starting in Prescott, Ariz., as youth pastor at First Baptist Church. After that, he attended Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and served as an interim minister of youth and college ministries at First Southern Baptist Church in Phoenix. He also served for a year in youth and college ministries at First Southern Baptist Church in Mesa. He was associate pastor at Hemet Valley Southern Baptist Church in Hemet, Calif., then moved to his first pastorate, at First Southern Baptist in Blythe, where he served for six and a half years.
While he is responsible for overseeing the Grand Canyon congregation, which numbers about 50 people, Wiles is also in ministry to the tourist community.
“The church here is classified as a joint work – resort ministries plus pastoring,” he said.
He has an extensive background in ministry to young people, and has maintained his focus in that direction even after assuming the role of pastor.
“It’s a passion for both of us,” said Wiles, speaking of himself and his wife. “We tend to draw to young people. We believe the future of any community is in its kids and its young adults.”
At his last church, the average age was 62 when they arrived; when they left, it was 38.
“We found that when you work with kids, the parents come too,” he said.
Wiles’ immediate goal is to continue building on the foundation laid by his predecessor.
“The church already has a good relationship with NPS and the community,” he said. “It bodes well for the work of the previous pastor.”
He’s also been meeting with other pastors here at Grand Canyon to look at ways to meet the spiritual needs of the community as a whole.
“They (the congregation) didn’t think I should sit in an office and wait for people to come to me. My job is to meet people and make contacts vs. sitting in an office,” he said.
Other than that, he isn’t planning any major changes.
“When I come in to a new ministry, I want to wait and see where everything is,” he said.
The move from Phoenix means big changes for the family. While Mike won’t have to adjust to a new school – he is home-schooled and graduates in May – they’re still adjusting to a slower pace and a smaller community. It’s a change they welcome.
“In a place like this, you begin to understand what it means to slow down,” Wiles said. “It’s good for us as a family.”
Wiles leads Sunday worship at 9:30 a.m. at the Shrine of the Ages. Bible study meets on Sundays at 11 a.m. at the Grand Canyon School, and evening Sunday worship is held at 6 p.m. at the Shrine. There is also a mid-week service at the Shrine on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.
“Everyone is welcome,” Wiles said. “That will continue to be our theme."