The Rev. Scott Hatton will be installed as the new senior pastor at First Evangelical Free Church, 3058 10th Ave. N., on Sunday. The 40-year-old Hatton was in his third year as an associate pastor at a growing metropolitan church in the Tampa Bay area when he first learned of the opening in Fort Dodge. The northern location caught his attention.
"It's fun for me to come back to the Midwest," Hatton said. "I've lived all around Iowa, but never in Iowa," Hatton said. "It's a good opportunity for our kids to grow up here, too." The family includes children Timothy, 13; Catherine, 10; and Christopher, 8. Kristin Hatton has a master's degree in elementary education from Winona State University in Minnesota and has experience as a substitute teacher in three states.
After graduating from Bethel with majors in philosophy and Bible, Hatton began post-graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. Those studies were put on hold when the couple married in 1993, and he took a job as an insurance broker in the Chicago area. In 1996, he returned to seminary.
Hatton received his master of divinity degree in 1999 and was hired as an associate pastor at Crossroads Church, a Southern Baptist church in the Chicago area, where he had been serving while attending Trinity. Six years later, he accepted a call as pastor of missions and discipleship at Clearwater Community Church in Dunedin, Fla.
After 10 years in associate roles, a colleague on staff at Clearwater, former Fort Dodge resident Jack Piquette, planted the seed regarding the opening at First Evangelical Free Church.
"Jack had probably mentioned it for the first time in February," Hatton said. "He talked about how much he loved Fort Dodge and the church there. He said he thought I'd be a good fit. It wasn't until mid-May that we talked about it again, and that very afternoon I got a phone call from Rollie Peterson."
Peterson, chairman at the Fort Dodge church, was making the initial contact with Hatton after the search committee expressed interest in Hatton's online resume, one of dozens received through the Free Church district office.
Hatton recalled that first contact. "He said something to the effect of calling me 'out of the blue' from Fort Dodge, Iowa. But I told him actually he wasn't calling out of the blue - that I was just talking about Fort Dodge that very morning."
First Evangelical's staff also includes family ministries pastor, the Rev. Matt Sees; part-time worship minister, the Rev. Brian Norine; and administrative assistant Ann Beenken. Hatton replaces former senior pastor, the Rev. Al Lewis, who resigned in May 2008 to join the national denomination's Reach Global missions organization as head of a new ministry to provide church-based Biblical and theological training to pastors throughout the world. Lewis and wife, Edie, continue to live in Fort Dodge.
He will continue to pursue a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity.