Walking the Walk: Duggan brings the gospel to local youth

By CATHRYN CARTWRIGHT,

For many people, answering God's call into ministry can be a huge undertaking, but one Yazoo County native has taken his call to work with local youth to a whole new level.

Originally named Thomas Allen Duggan at birth in 1978, "Tad" Duggan is a familiar face to the youth in and around Yazoo County.  Tad is the son of the late Tommy and Margaret Duggan, brother to Kim Farrell in California, and husband to Becky Duggan.  He is also the father of 19-year-old Tristan Duggan and 4-year-old Bryce Duggan.

Tad grew up in the Clubview Circle area of Yazoo City until age 11, when his family moved out to the Place Drive subdivision on Highway 16, where he lived out the rest of his teenage years.

After graduating from Benton Academy in 1997, Tad went straight into the workforce.

He worked as a boil operator in the power plant of the Public Service Commission of Yazoo City from 1999 to 2001.  Later he spent two years as an electrician apprentice for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Jackson.  After that, Tad would spend the next 16 years as a full-time farrier, traveling to farms and ranches replacing horseshoes for other horse owners.

"My life was simple," he said. "Every day my life was about horses since I was a farrier for 16 years. My wife and I also show horses so that's what my world revolved around."

Over the years as Tad was raising his son, he became more and more involved with the local students in the area and at his church. Somehow Tad knew that sharing the gospel and ministering to these teens was where God needed him to be.

"I just had a peace on my heart about ministering to teenagers," He said. "I knew I was doing what God wanted me to do when I was around them."

Tad began volunteering with the youth department at Parkview Church of God in 2012.  He worked so well with the students that he was given a part-time position at the church in 2013.

By 2017, Tad had become a full-time Associate Pastor at Parkview Church of God and Youth Minister. 

Under the job title of Associate Pastor, Tad's duties include assisting the Senior Pastor, Ken Lynch, within the church and the community, filling in at the church pulpit when Brother Lynch is away, and helping the sick and visiting shut-ins.

As Youth Minister, Tad's duties go even further with leading worship in the youth room on Wednesday nights, and teaching Sunday school to the high school class on Sunday mornings. He also organizes youth events and takes youth group members to various camps and retreats throughout the year, and makes sure that each student is spiritually fed.

Tad said that Parkview Church currently serves 40-50 teenagers in their youth department every week.

"We have Wednesday night youth meetings, which consist of games, worship through music, a message, and prayer time," he said. "On Sunday mornings we split junior high and high school students for Sunday School.  We also like to go out into the community and pray for people and hand out scriptures."

Tad said that Parkview Church takes students every summer to Camp Dixon for camp, as well as other fun trips throughout the year. 

"Every two years, we go to the International Youth Convention which is held in a different state each time," he said. "We do fundraisers to support the students so they can go on this trip."

The Parkview Church of God youth department also has a youth praise team which travels to different events and leads worship services.  Tad added that each year many of the Parkview youth join with the youth at First Baptist Church of Yazoo City for a Disciple Now weekend retreat.

Tad's youth ministry goes well beyond the walls of Parkview Church of God.  He also takes time during the week to visit students at many of the local schools.

"When I visit the local schools, the main thing is just to hang out with the students and just love on them," he said. "We take breakfast to some of the schools and have devotion. We help lead in worship for chapel at others."

Tad added that sometimes local coaches will even invite him to come and give a devotion to a group of athletes before a game.

Tad said that he hopes he has been a good influence on the teenagers he has ministered to over the years.

"All I can hope is that I have been a good imitator of Jesus to them and that they see the love of Christ in me," he said.

Outside of the youth department at Parkview, Tad is involved with the church choir and therefore plays a part in every worship service on Sunday morning.  Tad is also well known for playing the role of Jesus Christ in Parkview's yearly Easter Cantata production.

Outside of church and youth ministry Tad enjoys hunting and still finds time to be with his horses.  He enjoys team roping, while his wife Becky is involved with barrel racing, so they spend their free time traveling to horse shows and other events.

Tad said that anyone who is interested in ministering to those around them should simply start by making time for themselves and time to spend with others.

"We are so busy with everyday life that we can't make time to love on people," he said. "Get in a local church and start by feeding yourself the word of God, and then we can minister to others."

Tad's advice to those who are interested in volunteering or working with children's or youth ministries is to remember that it will be a full-time job.

"These kids become a part of your everyday life," he said. "Also make sure you have a good ear because a lot of times these students are just looking for someone to listen. Lastly, make sure that you have a big love for these students because you might be the only Jesus they see."

In playing the role of Jesus Christ in the Easter Cantata, Tad said that he always finds it to be a very humbling experience. 

"To even try to portray Christ takes a big commitment in prayer," he said. "But it is very rewarding because playing that role reminds me that no human could ever walk the walk that Jesus took."

Tad also said that playing the roles of Youth Minister, husband, and father at the same time can be challenging.

"It's been hard at times and has taken some prayer but I have a good wife who supports me and is helping me understand the importance of not putting my family off to the side," he said. "Because you can get caught up in the youth events and their games and activities and find yourself spending more time with them than you do your own family, so I am learning how to balance it the longer I do this."

Tad said that he has found that his own youth members often keep him motivated when he feels down.

"A lot of times I find these kids inspiring me more than I inspire them," he said. "These students are so real and to hear how God has brought them through some of the trials in their life is just amazing and helps my faith grow. A lot of times they help me to laugh when I am feeling down, so all I can say is I love them and they are a huge blessing to me."

Tad said that he still isn't finished with doing the work that God is leading him to do.

"My goal in life is to be the best husband and father that I can be and for my youth students to just be excited about their walk with Jesus,” he said.