Frank Kurtz creates unique conversational ministry

Kelly Powell

When being handed a business card, the recipient can usually expect the donor to promote himself, to boast about the things he’s achieved while working under that role. However, for Frank Kurtz who describes himself as a self-proclaimed encouragement specialist, that is not the case. His business card instead boasts about the things God has achieved while working through him.          

Kurtz, 50, seeks to educate students about the Christian faith tradition through structured work with Kent State’s Fellowship for Christian Athletes and unstructured work as Kent Student Center’s unofficial evangelist.

While pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism from Kent State in 1983, doctors found a malignant tumor on one of his vocal cords. Despite this, Kurtz continued to pursue his major while adding a minor in education and receiving his teaching certificate. In July of 2007, with the assistance of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) leader Ted Schumacher, he was able to “come home” to Kent State with the intent of leading students to Jesus.

His role led him to both the volleyball and soccer teams, leading devotionals and encouraging members to seek a life with God. However, Kurtz says that he does this a subtle and conversational way.

“People have this misconception that I just hit people over the head with a Bible,” he said. “My main goal is develop relationships with people. I never bring up with faith unless someone brings it up first.”

Alongside of working with campus athletes, he is passionate about starting conversation with anyone spending time in the student center or the Kent State Library.

“Thirty years ago, when I was walking around this place, if someone were to tell me that I was doing this, I never would’ve believed them,” he said. “I just enjoy being around people.”

His intent in approaching people in public places is an attempt to spread that joy that he harnesses.

“Everyday is like unwrapping a Christmas present,” he said. “All I get to do is share life with people.” 

One common topic he shares about is his wheelchair usage. Because Kurtz has cerebral palsy, it is advised that he use his wheelchair as often as possible. For some, this may be a setback, but for Kurtz, the transportation only assists him in defining his outlook on life.

“Just because I’m physically disabled doesn’t mean I’m mentally disabled as well,” he said. “I can do anything I put my mind to, even if society doesn’t necessarily buy it.”

This confidence, he insists, has nothing to do with his own demeanor but everything to do with Jesus.

“I’m not any more perfect than you are,” he said. “I can only think this way because of my faith in Jesus Christ.”

In fact, he sees his circumstances as making up only a small portion of his fate. In his home, a framed quote by Charles Swindoll hangs on the wall. Kurtz is able to see “Life is 10 percent of what happens to us and 90 percent of how we react to it” every morning when he wakes up.

Ted Schumacher, FCA co-leader, can attest to Kurtz living under this mindset.

“Because of his situation, he could be mad and sad and sit in his apartment his whole life,” Schumacher said.  “But instead, he gets students to a place where they can hear the faith.”

However, Kurtz admits he is aware not all students are interested in everything he has to say.

“I know how the apostle Paul felt,” he said. “There are people that don’t want us campus ministers to be here.”

His initial acknowledgement of differing opinions began when first coming to Kent State as a student.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to go there and there are going to be like, 30000 Christians,” he said.

When he recognized that not everyone believed in the same things he did, he turned to his parents, whom he says are, without a doubt, his ultimate inspiration. He credits her the pair for always fighting for the good of the family.

“I grew up going, ‘I think I can, I think I can,’” he said.

Because of that motto, he has found success and celebration in the little things. He credits having a conversation with two students at a basketball game as one of his favorite memories. After speaking to the students for about thirty minutes, they asked him what his profession was, and when he told them he was a campus minister, they replied that they never would have guessed because they were able to conduct a “normal conversation” with him.

Julia Flower, a sophomore interpersonal communication major, agrees with the students about Kurtz’ self-proclaimed “gift of gab.”

“He’s really easy to talk to,” she said. “I worked at a table with him in the student center for a KSU Preview Day, and it was fun because he always kept the conversation going.”

Kurtz looks for every opportunity to meet people in every corner of campus. He enjoys spending time in the library and giving students “study breaks” by engaging them in conversation about their lives.

“I consider comments about me knowing everyone the ultimate compliment,” he said.

Schumacher agrees.

“There aren’t too many people who don’t know who Frank is,” he said. “He has his eyes not on himself but on others.”

So whether he’s conversing in the student center, chatting in the library, or talking at an athletic practice, Kurtz wants those around him to know one thing: he is genuine.

“I mean what I do,” he said. “I never want to be like a salesman that’s faking it for the sake of his product. That’s not me. I love everyone.”

  Kelly Powell is the religion reporter. Contact her at [email protected].