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Newsmaker: Rick Odell

Every other week, the Talon interviews a member of the Oklahoma Christian community, a Newsmaker, to answer questions about their role on campus. 

On Feb. 1, the Talon interviewed Rick Odell, the University’s Associate Director of Church Relations.

What is the most important thing about church relations? 

“My role is different from the historical role of church relations here on campus. Typically, it has been a position in the Bible department and involved going around and preaching in different places and things like that. They brought me in under the umbrella of admissions. My focus is to work with youth ministers and youth groups within Churches of Christ to recruit students to Oklahoma Christian. I’m not like an admissions counselor; I’m more of a network-connecting person trying to bridge the gap between the university and the Churches of Christ not just in Oklahoma, but all over the United States.” 

What got you into ministry work and why is it so important to you?

“I have been a youth minister in different Churches of Christ for 30-plus years. Most of my friends are teenagers, and I’ve been around them and their parents forever and a day. I’ve always felt it important, as part of my youth ministry, to expose kids in my youth groups to the options they had as far as Christian higher education goes. When I was in Colorado, I started doing what I call the junior-senior trip. I would take all the current juniors and seniors on a trip to all five Christian universities—Oklahoma Christian, Harding, Lipscomb, Abilene and Lubbock Christian—every summer to do a tour. I started in advertising work, and mass communications was my degree. I migrated over into full-time ministry after about 10 years of advertising agency work. I felt a need to bring these kids to these colleges. I mean, obviously, I work for Oklahoma Christian, I wanted every kid to come here. But not every kid fits here. They may need a smaller school. I feel it’s important for faith development to help students really solidify their belief in Christ and their confidence in finding their image and their worth in that as well.”

What are your day-to-day duties?

“I do a lot of different things. Today, for example, I’ve been working on connecting some of our admissions counselors we have out in the field and mission specialists that live remotely. I’ve had conversations with churches about setting up functions. I’m also getting prepared for this coming Sunday night in Enid, Oklahoma, for a big area-wide youth worship event for a lot of the churches in northwest Oklahoma. We’re going to provide food and let people know about Oklahoma Christian. I also had a phone call earlier from a youth minister friend who has a youth group kid that’s a really good basketball player and wanted us to get that girl connected with Coach Brown. I’m a connector, and that’s kind of my own experience in life and talent. I get to write my own job in a sense, but I want to do something to make a difference and help out the school.”

How do you expect your position will impact others?

“The more students we get to come here, the more that have the chance to have the life-changing experiences I had. Truthfully, it can really change the trajectory of your life. It’s not just about, ‘You need to go to a Christian college and be a minister.’ It’s, ‘You need to be an engineer, a Christian engineer, or you need to be a doctor, a Christian doctor, or a journalist who is a Christian journalist. I think it gives us an opportunity to have students really develop their faith and the calling God puts in their life.” 

How do you think your position will impact you?

“It’s funny, because when I got out of college, I thought my life would look like one thing. Here I am, looking back now, 43 years later, and it’s something completely different that was unpredictable. I think, as cheesy as it sounds, as a former youth minister, God led me down this strange, unusual, adventurous path in my life to be able to do some really cool things. The trick for me was to be faithful with whatever it was God put in front of me to do. It’s about being present, which I know a lot of people in your generation do. Also, to realize small things in life are actually really important, and are really the big things. I’m just a tool for the Lord. I don’t think I’m that important. I’ve had lots of opportunities to be humbled in my life. This is just an opportunity for me to be faithful to whatever calling God has put in my life to be here and to help kids find Him in this particular venue.”

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