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Chris Shurtz begins ‘second season’ of pastoring in Newton County
Pastor Chris Feature 1
Pastor Chris Shurtz of Covington United Methodist Church - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard
Pastor Chris Feature 2

At the beginning of 2024, Covington United Methodist Church (UMC) began a fresh chapter under a new pastor. 

Chris Shurtz's first Sunday was Jan. 7 after he had pastored Conyers United Methodist for 2.5 years. 

For his first sermon, Shurtz preached with the title "Paul’s Epiphany, Mine and Yours" with the Bible text, Acts 9:1-19. 

Shurtz was intentional about what he shared in his inaugural Sunday as pastor. 

"I used that story as kind of a launching point to help share with people a little bit of my story…of my faith. Coming to faith in Jesus as a teenager and feeling the call to ministry as a college student and a high school student," Shurtz said. "To try and share Jesus and his love right out of the gate, but also help people get to know my story a little better."

Despite only pastoring Covington UMC for a couple of months, pastoring in Newton County is not new to Shurtz.

He shared with The News that this is his "second season." From 2002-2007, Shurtz led Starrsville United Methodist Church

Thus, Shurtz said he was aware of Covington UMC – including its food pantry and Change the World Day – before becoming the church's pastor. 

Shurtz is married to his wife Andrea and they have four children: Lindsay, Abby, Mallory and Chandler.

Shurtz said he and his family have felt welcome. 

"So far it’s been very positive. My family’s enjoying getting to know a whole host of new people and new faces. They have welcomed us very well," Shurtz said. "We’re already doing our best to work together to see what God has for the church and our community next." 

Shurtz earned a mechanical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) where he met his wife. Later, he obtained a master of divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. 

Then, in 1999, Shurtz began his ministry. 

Growing up, however, Shurtz said that his family hardly ever attended church outside of Christmas and Easter. 

His grandmother always urged Shurtz to go to a Christian camp close to her house in Tennessee. And, being a shy kid, Shurtz said he did not enjoy camp a lot, so he resisted. 

That was until his eighth grade year. 

Even after a friend canceled going to be with Shurtz during this camp, he still went. In that week-long camp, Shurtz met a counselor named Adolfo. 

“Over that week, he helped us see that — my thought up to that point was, ‘Good kids go to Heaven and bad kids don’t — so I always tried to be a pretty good kid,” Shurtz said. “But that week, I learned about the reality of sins separating us from God and the need for Jesus as our savior and Lord to have that relationship and follow him. By the end of that week, I began that journey.”

Following that camp, Shurtz began attending church services and reading his Bible more regularly. 

It was Shurtz’s days as a Georgia Tech student that then set him on the path to ministry. 

He was involved with several campus ministries, but said that he was especially involved with what was then referred to as “Campus Crusade for Christ.” Shurtz stressed his involvement in that particular camp ministry gave him a heart for discipling others.

The new Covington UMC pastor shared that it seemed God did the rest.

“So, coming out of college, I tried to be an engineer. But that was a door that God kept firmly closed. I couldn’t kind of breakthrough to get that opportunity,” Shurtz said. “An opportunity instead opened up to pursue seminary and full-time ministry. And that just kind of fell into place. It seemed like this is what God wants me to do.”

Outside of ministry, Shurtz is also a part of the Rotary Club of Covington and has previously been a member of the Conyers and Butts County Rotary clubs. Shurtz categorized being a part of Rotary as his primary service group he has worked with for almost 10 years.

He also coached soccer and coached all his children as well as helped with the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association. 

As far as hobbies go, Shurtz and his family enjoy travel — particularly to the beach — in addition to playing European board games. Shurtz said in his younger days that he liked playing volleyball. He continues to stay physically active, as he is a fan of pickleball, too. 

Now, as pastor of Covington United Methodist Church, Shurtz and the congregation have a two-fold vision. 

First, he wants to help the next generation connect their faith in Jesus and, second, help make the Bible relevant to the present day. 

Above all, Shurtz wants to see Covington UMC build individuals into disciples to the local community.

“I like making disciples, especially of those who maybe don’t have a Christian heritage or younger families and children. I’m excited that here in Covington there are a good many young families that are growing in the faith,” Shurtz said. “And we make sure we keep doing that well, at a high level. And try to make sure we’re doing all we can to make an impact with our pre-school, but also make an impact through making disciples.”