“I was turning down a full scholarship…”
with Gabriella De Jesus
OSL alumni, Kolby Kissinger, was able to sit down with me and talk about how his life before, and during, OSL helped grow him into the leader he desired to be.
Tell me about your family life growing up?
My parents got divorced when I was two. My mom and dad both remarried when I was three. So growing up, my family life was different. It was normal to go to my dad’s house on the weekend, and then live with my mom and my step-dad. My stepdad was a big part of my life. He introduced me to the Oaks, to sports, football, and everything else like that. I had an older brother, a younger brother, and a little sister. Growing up, life looked pretty normal to me. We went to church. I played a lot of sports. We just had a really simple life.
Were there any major impactful moments that affected your life at that time?
When I was fifteen, my step-dad divorced my mom. That was a big change for us because we kind of grew up with him in our life. Ultimately, he took my little brother and sister and went to New Mexico. That was another big change because my mom was afraid he wasn’t going to come back. At the time, I was getting recruited to play baseball. She just gave me the option to either go with her or stay with my best friend and finish high school. I ended up staying with one of my friends for the last two years of high school before going to college. That was pretty impactful just because I was living on my own. My friend’s parents were great and they provided in a lot of ways, but they didn’t provide authority to me. They didn’t tell me what to do. I had to make decisions and learn about things on my own. I had to provide for some things and take care of things on my own. So that created an independent mindset in a lot of ways for me. It was good and bad. That was probably the most drastic and life-altering decision.
Who was your role model/mentor in that season of your life, and how did they help you?
So there were a couple of people from the Oaks that were great mentors to me. One of them was my small group leader. All my small group leaders growing up were great influences on my life. There’s a guy named Jordan, who was my first small group leader, who kind of just helped me to see these small groups were cool. The next guy that was a big influence in my life, was Michael Pearson. He was also my small group leader, but also my Bible quiz coach. He somehow persuaded me to do a Bible quiz. In which case over the summer, I memorized almost the entire book of Matthew. That changed my life because when you memorize scripture, it’s one thing to know it and another thing to have it in your heart. That was a game-changer for me. When I went into high school, a couple of guys, Chris Shepherd, Dan Hunter, and Truston Baba, all just played a huge, significant role in my life. They were all big influences in my life because they were always around. My high school baseball coach, who wasn’t a Christian, had a big role in my life as well. He impacted me in just teaching me and showing me that you gotta work hard. You got to be respectful and honoring. Then there was the Scotts, Jack Scott, and Brett Scott. Jack paid for my cell phone the last two years of high school because my mom wasn’t paying for a cell phone or anything. He was the kind of man that supported me in a lot of ways. Which was huge for me and a game-changer because I know that was God providing for me. He provided through so many different people. The Latimers, the family I lived with, were a great support. They loved me and showed me the love of Christ by just adopting me into their family and helping me.
How did you come to Christ?
I do remember a specific moment, but mostly my story of salvation was like ticks on a clock. Hunter Wilson and I talked about this on the Learn By Doing podcast. It’s not one moment but many moments that helped me towards salvation. I do remember specifically responding to an altar call at Billy Graham’s crusade here in Dallas. After that, here at the Oaks, at the Youth Convention, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. So that was a significant thing. I think it was really funny because at first, I was just copying my friend. Theologically that may be incorrect, but that’s what happened. Those were two very impactful moments.
Was there a specific moment that you can remember where you realized the call God has on your life?
It was at a youth camp. I felt like God was telling me to turn down my scholarship to SAGU to play baseball and go into ministry, which was crazy. I just felt like there was this call on my life to do ministry and to impact people for Jesus. I didn’t want to live for earthly things. I wanted to live for eternal things. After camp, I called my coaches and family and told them the decision that I was making. Not many people were happy about it but after that, I just really began to start trusting in the Lord on a whole new level and figuring things out. There were moments in high school where I felt God’s call was on my life, but it was that moment the summer after my senior year, where I felt like that call had been confirmed.
Can you tell me about any struggles you had with your calling during that period?
Yeah, I wanted to go play baseball and make millions of dollars! The struggle was that I didn’t know what ministry looked like. Also, all you hear about ministry people is that they’re poor. That was a huge struggle. Not going to SAGU for baseball, I was turning down a full scholarship and had no money. My parents weren’t in the picture and nobody was around. I was by myself and it was scary. I had to trust God in that moment of suffering and struggle. God confirmed to me that He would never leave me because when I came to school He provided. I did take out some small loans, but ever since that moment there’s never been a doubt in my mind that God was real and on my side. It was just a choice of living for eternal things and not for earthly things for me.
How did your story bring you to OSL?
Right before I went to youth camp, one of my friends texted me saying, “Hey, Masters Commission is now turning into OSL. You should do it.” After I went to youth camp and felt God’s calling for me, it only made sense to do OSL. It was just one of those things where I felt like God was telling me specifically to go through OSL. I just said, “God, I’ll do whatever you’re telling me to do.” That’s why I tell every person that I speak to that I don’t care whether you come to OSL or not because God’s the one that should be directing you to come. If you are hearing from God to come to OSL, it’s going to work out.
What internship(s) were you a part of? How did you choose the internship(s)?
The first internship I was a part of was what used to be the evangelism internship, with Wayne Northup. I chose to do that one because I prayed about it and I felt like God was telling me to do it. Being a part of that internship was a game-changer for me. Wayne changed my life in a lot of ways. I was introduced to recruiting and started being a part of recruitment because I was good at it. After that year, OSL was starting a spiritual formation internship with the group’s pastor, Paul Hurckman. I moved over and did that one for a year. It was there that I worked on implementing a small group search engine system for the entire church, which was huge for me to work on. After that, I became a protege for OSL.
Were there any difficulties you went through while in OSL?
Honestly, I can’t think of too many struggles. I felt like the struggle was on them beforehand. The season that I was in when I was in OSL was just life-giving. I met a lot of friends and I remember just growing and learning a whole lot.
Down the line, during your time in OSL, where did you see yourself after graduation?
I tried not to play the game of figuring that out. I was trusting the Lord. I knew I wanted to do ministry. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I did know that I trusted God. I already knew that if He had gotten me through all that I’d already been through, then I could trust him with the future stuff. There were seasons where I wanted to do business, in which I did go and work for a business for a while. For the most part, I knew that I wanted to lead an organization or be a part of the leadership of an organization of the church that impacted the world. I think that’s where I wanted to be. I wanted to impact the world. Like I didn’t give up a scholarship into things of this earth just to do normal, ordinary things.
Going off the last question, what have you been up to since graduating from OSL?
I worked for OSL for two years, where I was over all of recruiting, and then was over spiritual development. Then I felt like God was telling me to go pastor in the business world. So I went and worked for John Houston Custom Homes, which is one of the top fifty home builders in the United States. Ans well as John Houston family of companies, which are all of John’s family of companies, and I had multiple jobs there. For one of those jobs, I worked on the spiritual formation team in a business, which is very unique and very different. Not many businesses have a spiritual formation department. I also worked in HR and did all the hiring for five different companies. That was a pretty great learning experience for me. While I was in that season, I just realized that I learned how to equip the saints and pastor. I also learned how to be a saint and work in the real world, as well as minister in the real world. There shouldn’t be a separation from a pastor and a person working in a business. You should be able to do the same things and doing that allowed me to see a lot of the needs of people from a different perspective. Now, I’ve felt like God told me to come back into the pastoral role. I’m back working with OSL, but I am also the young adult pastor here at the Oaks. That’s what I’ve been up to since then. I’ve also gotten married since that time too. Right after OSL, I married the greatest woman in the world and her name was Alexandria Skipper. She said yes to me and it’s been an incredible journey since then.
Was the experience what you had imagined it to be? Did it meet your expectations?
I came in with no expectations because I was trusting in God. OSL changed my life. I mean, the college experience was great, but I also met my wife through OSL. It just drastically changed my life, the relationships that I had, the mentors and people that I had experiences with, what I learned. Not even just because I’m from the Oaks, but what I have learned, I learned by just being in college, being around people, and going out to do ministry. That season of my life was drastically changed and improved. I learned so much in that season and I’m still learning a ton. That season specifically, was very rich and bold.
Lastly, do you have any advice for students currently going through OSL and those looking into it?
Yeah, I do. My first advice is don’t focus on doing, focus on being. That means you’re not going to understand what you do or how you do it unless you first understand who you are. Also, your value does not come from what you do, it comes from who you are because there’s no one else like you. You’re the only person in the world like you, with your eyes, your hair, your fingerprints. There’s no one else. So when you understand that your value comes from just being you and from Jesus, you’re not focusing on all the doing, all the grades, or producing a ton of results. Your value doesn’t come from what you do, but from who you are and what Jesus paid on the cross for you. I would also say put away the TV, Netflix, and Xbox. I got this advice from Andy Stanley and it changed my life. I sold my Xbox and TV and just read books in my spare time. I will say that it was the greatest advice I got. When you do that, you just go further faster than everyone else. You establish habits that are sustainable for leadership in the future. Lastly, I would say to go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace. That way you can learn how to steward money well and pay off your debt.
The Oaks School of Leadership (OSL) at Oaks Church was founded in 2009 and since then more than 600 students have gone through OSL. Many serve in high-caliber leadership positions throughout our nation and around the world. OSL exists to position students for effective leadership in a variety of capacities, including ministry, non-profit and business leadership, by providing students with hands-on leadership training combined with a degree from an accredited university.