Early in life, Tanner Smith heard, “You’re going to grow up and be just like your dad.” Even though he grew up in a pastor’s family, he wanted to be a pro baseball player. However, during high school, he experienced a life-changing encounter with God and a call to plant churches. Now, through the Northwoods School of Ministry, Peoria, he and other young leaders are preparing for ministry.

In college, Tanner pursued a bachelor’s degree in preaching to prepare for his future in ministry. After graduating from college, he accepted a job in youth ministry with Northwoods Church, Galesburg campus. Even though he believed that God had given him a vision for church planting, he was also sure that God wanted him to accept the youth ministry position.

During that time, Northwoods was developing their vision to plant 20 churches by 2030 and invest in young ministry leaders through a ministry school. The 2-year program would provide a Master of Arts in General Ministries from Lincoln Christian University and practical ministry experiences from Northwoods Church. By the time the ministry school opened in 2018, Tanner and 7 other students filled their first class.

Now in his second year, Tanner is mapping his church planting path with FEC. Looking back, he sees God’s fingerprints in the design. At Northwoods, he is developing into a leader who is equipped to do what God has called him to do.