Seth Buckley, minister of students at Spartanburg’s First Baptist Church for most of the past 25 years, has resigned his position at the church to pursue a new ministry with an emphasis on helping fatherless boys and young men.
Fire Pit Ranch, located in Moore near Spartanburg, is a ministry founded by his son, Jacob, in 2015 that has grown into a dynamic mentoring and discipleship program. Seth’s position is director of leadership development.
“Our mentoring program is exploding as schools are clamoring for help,” Seth said. “We have written a curriculum for use with schools that is based on virtues, life skills, goal setting, etc. The mentors whom we enlist are from local churches and are trained in relationship development (especially with students). On the field trips we take, we can share the gospel and provide deeper spiritual guidance.
“If we want to make a difference, we must reach these children at a young age, especially young men who do not have a father figure in their lives,” he said. “With Christ-centered mentors, these boys are able to see a role model who will coach them to become who God has created them to be.”
Fire Pit Ranch has a four-step process: Identify the kids who need to be in the program (the ministry partners with school administrators, counselors, and teachers); equip them spiritually and intellectually; inspire them by helping them discover their purpose; empower them to be leaders among their peers.
Part of the group’s approach is outdoor adventures like hunting, clay shooting, fishing, ATV rides, and more. The staff has been trained and certified by the John Maxwell Team as speakers, trainers, and coaches in the area of leadership.
Jacob Buckley, director of FPR, said the ministry exists to “bring hope, guidance, and love to a generation longing for purpose, and to help them develop a relationship with Jesus Christ and discover their purpose.”
The group sponsors events for fathers and their children, works with various organizations to provide leadership development and team building, and they created a new program three years ago called the Next Level Leadership Club.
“We saw that we needed to meet kids at a younger age in order to reach them and make a significant impact in their lives,” Jacob said. “Now we are beginning to see significant impact in their lives.”
Next Level takes 12 boys from each school beginning in the fifth grade and mentors them until they graduate from high school. Seth will lead the Next Level Leadership Clubs.
He said, “The ‘Heart for Schools’ initiative with the South Carolina Baptist Convention is a program that we are partnering with to give churches a vision of how they can impact local schools. My life’s calling has been to help reach the next generation, and my wife (Robin) and I are taking this step of faith because we see that the mission of FPR will carry us into the schools to reach students who might not normally enter a church building.”
Evidence of Seth’s 25 years of faithful service was overwhelmingly affirmed in his farewell service Oct. 31 at First Baptist, Spartanburg, when he sang, “The Anchor Holds.” The moment was powerful and received an energetic standing ovation from the grateful congregation. Following the service, the line to speak with the Buckley family was huge.
Pastor Don Wilton said, “It is hard to see him leave us. I really feel it, because he is a pillar of strength and a constant source of encouragement in our unified effort to reach our world for Christ. The sadness I feel personally is greatly and warmly embraced by the fact Seth is now joining his son in a very critically needed ministry. Young boys who find themselves without the wisdom and direction of godly fathers are being let loose in a wild world without an anchor. No one knows the anchor holds better than Seth. I wholeheartedly endorse the ministry of FPR and commit to pray for Seth as he speaks from church to church and school to school.”
Lee Clamp, chief strategic officer for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said, “Seth has a heart for the next generation and fatherless young men. He has been a dear friend and faithful servant to the next generation of South Carolina Baptists for decades, and we are excited about the opportunities he will open for men around our state to mentor at-risk boys.”
Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood and former president of the SCBC, said, “I have known Seth since I was a teenager. He has always been passionate about reaching at-risk youth.”
Sims added that, through FPR, kids are rescued. “Whether it’s through activities like hunting or fishing or through simple things like learning how to change a tire, the target is always to point them to Christ. I cannot think of a better person for this job, and I can’t think of a better way for Seth to spend these valuable years of his life.”
First Baptist Minister of Missions Steve Wise noted that he has been friends with Seth for nearly 30 years. “His calling to students, parents and leaders has been his passion. His four sons, now men, are trophies of God’s grace,” Wise said. “There is no man I know better gifted or prepared by God to teach believers how to mentor and guide our children into faith and adulthood.”
Seth said he plans to preach in churches, associational men’s conferences, and wild game dinners. In addition, he plans to lead monthly men’s gatherings to encourage discipleship among men in local churches and provide video training for mentors and church leaders. “I also want to coach youth pastors and do some adjunct teaching as time permits.”
The Buckley family is a ministry family — with roots in Seth’s father, the late Sid Buckley, an outstanding singer who blessed South Carolina Baptists for years with his remarkable talent and consistent Christian life. The apple did not fall far from the tree — Seth has a beautiful and powerful voice. Hopefully, he will continue to sing God’s praises in his new role.