Staff and Deacons

Leadership is all about service. With Jesus as our example, we are honored and privileged to lead, guide, and serve for the Lakewood Ranch community.

  • jonah best  circleemail 


    Jonah started attending the church in 2020 and came on staff in 2022. He is working toward a Bachelor’s in Business and Leadership at Bayside College and plans on pursuing a job as an Air Traffic Controller. He loves Sarasota’s sunsets and how there are plenty of things to do around the city.

  • JUSTIN BLACK  circleemail

    Worship pAstor

    Justin started serving on staff in June of 2023. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership from Grace Christian University. He served on staff as a Worship Pastor at his previous church in central Kentucky. He and his wife Natasha have three children: Madeline, Hannah, and Alex. His favorite parts of living in this area are hanging out with Scott Martin five days a week and getting to enjoy its beaches and restaurants with his family. Justin loves music, reading, and getting “absolutely yoked” at the gym.

  • CHRISTI BOWERS  circleemail 

    Children's Director

    Christi started attending LWRBC in 2013 and came on staff in 2021. She used to work for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in both Georgia and Florida and also served as an Interim Children’s Ministry Director at a previous church. She and her husband Mike have three children: Annalee, Cameryn, and Patrick. Her favorite part about living in SRQ is that winters are mild, and she can hang by the pool all year round. Christi is a firm believer that you can make anything better with Jesus, chocolate, and a good book.

  • Kim Byers  circleemail


    Kim came on staff in 2018 and used to work as a Children’s Director at a church prior to arriving here. She has four children: Kelsey, Trevor, Karissa, and Trent. Kim has lived in Sarasota since she was two years old and loves its beaches and restaurants.

  • Dr. Rick Hardison circleemail

    Lead Pastor

    Rick came on staff in the summer of 2017. He holds an Associates of Arts in Religion and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Liberty University, as well as a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Before relocating to Florida, he served as a pastor in Kentucky for five years. He and his wife Staci have three children. He loves the trails and parks in Lakewood Ranch and the shrimp tacos at Lucky Pelican. He also appreciates how multi-generational the community is, and how people come from so many different parts of the country. Prior to becoming a pastor, Rick started a tutoring company based in Louisville.

  • Michael Harsch circleemail

    Family Pastor

    Michael came on staff in the summer of 2018. He received his Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies from Liberty University. He has served in local church ministry for over 25 years in Florida. He and his wife Summer have three children: Autumn, Noah, and Payton. He appreciates the beautiful parks, beaches, and great restaurants this area offers, as well as the opportunities for family involvement through sports, leisure, and other hobbies. At his previous church, Michael played the role of Jesus for thirteen years in a passion play that reached 5,000 people a year. 

  • Maggie Kloepfer  circleemail

    Assistant little ranchers director

    Maggie started attending the church in 2006 and joined the staff in 2017. She and her husband have one son, Jesse. Maggie appreciates the unique birds and wildlife in the Sarasota area.

  • SCOTT MARTIN  circleemail 

    PASTORAL assistant

    Scott started attending the church in 2014 and came on staff in 2021. He is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Scott is born and raised in Sarasota. His favorite part about this area is that is home to Dakin Dairy, the world’s best chocolate milk. 

  • Connie Nelson  circleemail

    Little Ranchers Director

    Connie started as a teacher at Little Ranchers in 2011 and became its director in the summer of 2014. She started working in children’s ministry in southwest Florida in 2001. She and her husband Eric have three children: Eric, Lindsay, and Kari. One of Connie’s favorite parts of Sarasota is its great beaches.

  • jeff peterson  circleemail

    maintenance Lead

  • Tim thomas  circleemail

    Student Minister

    Tim started attending the church in 2017 and came on staff in 2024. He is married to his wife, Abbie. Tim grew up in this area and loves its great parks and restaurants, with his favorite restaurant being Fresh Kitchen. He’s been playing basketball since he was 8 years old and enjoys having spiritual conversations with anyone who will listen.

  • Jeff Yoder  circleemail

    Special Needs Director

    Jeff came on staff in 2023. He attended the Sarasota College of Ministry and is a respite companion to several adults with disabilities in the community. Jeff loves to travel and evangelize wherever he goes.



  • CURT hicks


  • Max stewart


  • Martin Vreman


  • matthew wade