The new pastor at Good News United Methodist Church in Santa Rosa Beach is, above all, a Christ-follower.

"I'm nothing but a big goofball saved by grace, but I try every day to reflect the character of Jesus more and more," Chris Perry told The Sun.

He said his most important job as a pastor is to love his people, and he tries, as the Apostle Paul says, "to be all things to all people, fulfilling the role they need me to at that specific church. But the one consistent thing across every church is loving people with God's unconditional love."

But being all things to all people can be the most challenging part of the ministry — and being on call 365/24/7.

"Even if I'm picking up groceries at Publix I'm still 'on the clock' because I represent my church wherever I go," Perry said. "And no matter how hard I try, I'm going to mess up. I'm going to let people down. When you're their shepherd, trying your best to lead and love them, messing up is extremely frustrating. You often don't get a second chance."

But Perry also sees a great reward for pastors.

"There is nothing like seeing God really begin to work in someone's life, and see lives changed."

Perry finds that leaving behind a lot of good people at his current church, Robinson Springs UMC in Millbrook, Ala., is a hard thing to do, but even harder is making the correct moves right off the bat.

"As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression," he said. "As a new pastor, I generally have a lot of good will and a 'honeymoon period'. If I don't use that wisely I can negatively impact the rest of my ministry at the church."

However, through positive steps, building relationships and relying on the current staff and leadership, a momentum will build that can launch the church to a whole new level.

Ministry Style: Relying on a ‘creative God’

Perry sees his style of ministry as both empowering and creating, not micromanaging the church or the ministry. He likes to use the arts and creativity in worship.

"My job is to help people discover what God has called them to do and then train, resource, and empower them to do it.

"God is a very creative God. He made the platypus, after all. That creativity should be reflected in our ministries and worship."

Perry sees the church as the heart of the community, and should offer ministries that cover a wide-range of topics that will touch people in their daily lives.

"I want GNUMC to be known as a place that will help you reach your full potential spiritually, physically, emotionally and relationally," he said. "It shouldn't be a place people think of on Sunday morning, but is a part of their everyday life. That said, the church, when done correctly, is the only organization on earth that doesn't exist for the benefit of its members. It exists for those outside its doors. We need to be out serving in our community, in our schools, in the harbor, on the beach. Wherever people are, we need to be there serving." 

More than a pastor

Perry's hobbies outside the pastorate vary from water/beach activities to Scuba to golf and martial arts.

"I've never been one to enjoy just laying out on the beach," he said. "I can't sit still long enough to do that. But, my oldest son, wife, and I are all Scuba certified and we love to be out diving and we take our youngest snorkeling."

With his advanced black belts in two samurai martial arts, Perry hopes to continue teaching that hobby by adding it to the current martial arts ministry at Good News. 

"I've been told already that I need to take up fishing, so I'm also looking forward to learning a new hobby."

Perry has a bachelor’s degree of science in meteorology, and still does his own forecasting every day to keep his skills sharp.

"I do a daily Walt Disney World forecast for the fan/vacation planning website Intercot," Perry said. "But in terms of my church work, I'm a certified trainer for the United Methodist Church in disaster response and chainsaw work in disaster areas. I also still do some storm chasing and keep in contact with my friends in the meteorology community to assist when needed."

With that busy schedule, Perry still has found the time to write two books on leadership. The first "Learning to Talk Sheep," he co-wrote with his father.

Divinity and Disney

His second book, "The Church Mouse: Leadership Lessons from the Magic Kingdom," takes the leadership principles of Disney and applies them to the church setting with practical examples.

"A very visible example of Disney's attention to detail is that every single castle in the Disney parks around the world has its own unique paint scheme that will shimmer perfectly at sunset to create that 'magical' glow," Perry said. "In the church we rarely think about details like paint scheme and what different colors do to create a specific mood or atmosphere."

Perry said that Walt Disney's vision of EPCOT, showing how people would live in the future, is what the church should be doing.

"We're showing the world now how life will be when Christ returns."

Because of the popularity of his books, Perry is able to speak on leadership at conferences all over the world.

"Especially in Orlando at Disney conferences. I love teaching and helping people unleash their potential. And it doesn't hurt that I get to do that at Walt Disney World quite often."