POR: Dan Hooper Jr. March 15, 2009
FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF DAD, GOD
When Dan Hooper Jr. moved to Grand Junction as a 7-year-old, his father took a job as pastor of a 19-member church. ¶
Today Hooper works as a pastor with his father, Dan Hooper Sr., at the church his father founded, Fellowship Church. The church has a weekly attendance of 3,500 to 4,000 people. ¶
Growing up, Hooper spent a lot of time in church, and as a 14-year-old decided he wanted to become a pastor.
“I always grew up in church,” he said. “There was a point when I was a teenager that it became real ... a relationship between me and Jesus Christ.”
Hooper’s father was not surprised with his son’s path.
“We have seen him grow into this for a long time,” Dan Hooper Sr. said.
Hooper got his start at the church mowing the lawns and cleaning toilets. He worked his way up to office assistant for a pastor, and eventually as the assistant to the adult pastor. He started working hands-on in the children’s ministry in 2001, and was ordained as a minister in December 2002.
“I fell in love with Grand Junction and the people of Grand Junction ... I’ve seen so many amazing things take place in our community because of this church. It’s something I want to be a part of,” Hooper said.
As Hooper was growing up, so was the church. The new church campus, 765 24 Road, opened in February 1999l During construction, services were held at the historical Avalon Theatre downtown. The church continued to expand with a children and student ministry wing
that opened in 2001, and an east building in 2002. A new auditorium opened last year with its first services on Christmas Eve. The 4 p.m. service was so full that patrons were turned away and asked to come back for the 6 p.m. service.
Hooper became co-pastor at the church in May 2007. He writes sermons, counsels, helps oversee the 38-person staff and makes sure the weekend services are set up.
“I think he brings a creative aspect to our programming department,” Dan Hooper Sr. said.
The church hosts services on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The church hosts high school students on Tuesday nights and middle school students on Wednesday nights in the Vertigo room, complete with black-and-white checkered walls, video game stations, a full stage with bleachers, and pool tables.
“We’re definitely not your grandma’s church,” Hooper said. “We want this to be a safe place for any person to come and grow.”
Hooper married his high school sweetheart, Amelie, in 2000 when she was still finishing high school. Amelie Hooper splits her time raising their two children, 3-year-old Kayla and 5-year-old Rachel, and working part time as an administrative assistant at the church.
“All of our dreams and inspirations have been about making this church better,” Amelie Hooper said.
Hooper doesn’t find it hard to work in his father’s footsteps. He said his father instilled a strong work ethic in him and gave him opportunities to get hands-on experience. It was better than any formal education, Hooper said.
“I don’t try to be him. I don’t think he expects me to or wants me to,” Hooper said. “I just feel honored to be a part of it, to use my gifts at this time at this church.”
Naomi Williams is a 13-year member of Fellowship Church, and good friend to Amelie Hooper.
She likes the church because it is such a friendly place and because members and staff are always willing to help out.
“Dan (Hooper Jr.) has his own style of sermons. He has learned a lot from his father,” Williams said. “He can reach people where his dad can’t.”
“I think he brings youth and creativity,” said Dan Hooper Sr. “He is really relevant to today’s issues.”
Hooper said he feels blessed to be working at the church his father founded and believes God has used his father to do some amazing things.
But he feels God gave him different talents and abilities.
“I feel like God has given me the talent to teach in a practical way.”
Amelie Hooper sums up her husband’s pastoral approach this way: “He loves people. He loves helping people, and he wants to see God change people’s lives. He truly is genuine.”