We are thrilled to announce that Matthew Deprez is now the Church Engagement Specialist at the Fuller Youth Institute! Matthew joins us from Frontline Community Church, where he has pastored for 9 years. We cannot wait for you to get to know him better, so today we're sharing a quick interview. Read on and you'll discover why we are ecstatic to have him join our team!

1) You've been a pastor for the past decade. What did you love about that?

There’s so much I loved about being a pastor! I had the privilege of working at Frontline Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI, for almost 9 years, and Frontline restored tremendous hope in the Church for me. A few years ago, Frontline’s leadership began measuring “success” by the kinds of stories of changed lives we saw, not by the typical measurables most churches look at like attendance or giving. When that shifted for us, I saw the Church valuing people over programs, which is probably what I loved the most about being a pastor. I loved walking alongside people in their spiritual journey over the course of many years, and seeing how their lives changed.

2) Tell us about a defining moment or experience that you've had. What makes that moment so powerful for you today?

This is probably going to be really cliche, but the most defining moment in my life is the day I became a Christian. It was August 10, 2000, and I had just graduated from high school in northern Maine. At the time, I was playing drums in a band, and all I wanted to do was travel the country and play music, but everything changed when I became a Christian. I immediately felt like I should be a pastor, so the following January I moved to New Brunswick, Canada, for college (Kingswood University) so I could become a pastor. The trajectory of my life completely changed that day. I stayed in my band until December 2002 when it became clear God was calling me to be a pastor, not a rockstar. (Oh, and I met my incredible wife in college, so clearly I made the right decision to leave the band!)

3) FYI believes in bringing the church and today's young people together. Why do you find that exciting?

For many years I think young people started questioning whether they needed the Church to come alongside their experience with Jesus. I was in that boat for many years myself. One of the reasons I think we began questioning whether or not we needed the Church is because we began questioning whether or not the Church needed us. FYI’s work over the years to bring the two together has been very exciting because it shows young people all over the world that there is an incredibly important seat the table for them within the Church!

4) You and your wife have two adopted children. What's been the best thing about adoption?

Ok, let me state as clearly as possible that our children are amazing! (I know every parent says that, but seriously, they’re pretty stellar!). My wife (Megan) and I have had the privilege of adopting our two sons from birth. The best thing about our adoptions is probably seeing my wife thrive in her role as a Mom! Every time I watch her interact with each of them, I’m constantly amazed at how good of a Mom she is. We dealt with years of infertility, and it was really painful to walk through that journey, but it opened the door for us to adopt, which has been such a joy. Our adoptions have also reminded me in a fresh way that I’m adopted into God’s family as a follower of Christ, which has helped Megan and I understand our identities in a more robust way. I’m not sure I would understand that if we hadn’t adopted.

5) You have a day off and no responsibilities. You can be anywhere in the world. What do you do?

I LOVE mountains. A lot! (Which is rather ironic, considering I live in West Michigan, which is so flat, but let’s set that aside for a moment). All that to say, if I could be anywhere in the world, I’d probably go on a hike in the mountains with my wife.

6) What book have you been recommending to everyone recently (other than FYI books!)?

In the last month I’ve told so many people about the book The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper. It’s so, so good! (And very challenging). If you decide to pick it up, which I highly recommend, I suggest reading it with someone else so you can process it with them.

7) You're treating out-of-town guests to dinner. Where do you take them?

Oh man, this a difficult question! There’s a local place in Grand Rapids called Marie Catribs, which is phenomenal. If you ever get the chance to go, try their homemade hummus/pita chips and “The Porto.” (I’d give you the description here, but you’d just get jealous you don’t live in Grand Rapids). There’s also a fantastic Mexican restaurant here called Donkey Taquiera, which is delicious! Give the Taco Al Pastor a shot if you go. (It’s got marinated pork shoulder, grilled pineapple, cilantro and onion. Come on, you know that sounds amazing!)

8) What's your spirit animal or secret power?

I think I live vicariously through our dog, Murphy. He’s 10lbs of Shih-Tzu and Miniature Poodle, which makes for the greatest dog breed ever, the one and only “Shih-Poo.” I’m pretty sure we’ve got identical personalities. He’s spunky and loves to have fun, but he can also relax and be quiet for a couple hours at a time. So, does that make my spirit animal a “Shih-Poo”? Because that feels a little ridiculous if that’s the case!

9) Best place you've ever traveled to?

Megan and I just went to Montana and Wyoming for the first time back in November 2016. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my entire life. If you get a chance to stay in Red Lodge, Montana, (nestled in the Beartooth Mountains) I promise you will never regret that decision.

10) Tell us one thing about yourself that few people know.

Hmmmm…My Dad’s retired from the Air Force, so I lived in Portugal (more specifically, the Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean) for 4 years as a kid. That was a pretty cool experience. Also, I hate tomatoes. But most people know that about me, so I get pranked with tomatoes a lot!

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