You could say that Keith Baker (‘16) is a jack of all trades, though that would be an understatement. While he studied human services at the Philadelphia location of Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School and uses his degree on the job, his skills go far beyond that. One look at his resume and current lineup of jobs, volunteering positions and ministries will make your head spin. In his day job, he works as a service manager for a property management company. “I am responsible for 21 buildings, which include 300 residential units, said Baker. “And I directly supervise four employees in the service department.” But his real passion lies in ministry. At last count, he was involved with 10 or more ministries outside of his 40 hour work week, ranging from Christian radio host to associate minister and motivational speaker.
Baker says his life hasn’t always been this way. Before he earned his degree, he described himself as a broken man. “I came to Christ at a very low point in my life,” he explained. “My unequally yoked marriage was coming to an end. I tried everything other than Christ to fix it, only to find out that things were getting worse.” In the midst of his sadness one day, he says he felt the Holy Spirit pushing him to go to church. So he did. “The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said one word,” explained Baker. “And that word was, ‘surrender’. That day, November 7, 2004, I asked to take over my life because I was tired of messing it up. The rest is history!”
Once Baker became a Christian, he found a renewed vigor for life. He dedicated much of his time to ministry and volunteerism. “Before really accepting and understanding Christ, I was your average counterfeit carnal Christian,” he said. “Amid trying to deal with what I thought was an impossible situation, God showed up and fought on my behalf. He gave me another chance, a do-over.” He explained that it was this second chance at life that spurs his passion for ministry. “God placed incredible spiritual mentors in my life who showed me who I was as a sinful man and taught me how I am to be as a Christian man,” explained Baker. “Once I received this gift, this new gift of life there was no turning back for me. That’s why I do it.”
Part of Baker’s journey was returning to school after a long break. At first, he enrolled in the biblical studies program at the college’s Philadelphia location. After his advisors looked over his life experience and the lineup up of ministries he was involved with, they suggested a change. “Several of my mentors told me to switch to human services because I was already doing the work and it would make me more marketable and help me in the ministry,” he explained. “My education has strengthened me with the knowledge of what a human services worker is and it has shown me that I am tailor-made for this work. I have a solid foundation and a better understanding of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. In my career as a manager, I’m able to use the tools I’ve learned to help and motivate employees to reach their full potential. I’ve learned how to recognize their strengths and support them in areas where they are weak.”
Of course, going back to school can be tough – especially if your schedule is as packed as Baker’s was and is. Finding time for homework in between a 40 hour work week, hosting two radio shows, ministering, volunteering, speaking on radio shows, mentoring young men and teaching workshops on reducing teen pregnancy is difficult. Fortunately, LBC’s human services program is designed specifically for adult learners and involves online coursework, making it more flexible and accessible to those balancing work, school and life. That, combined with the caring community Baker found among his fellow students carried him through the program. “During my time at school, I realized how tough it was for many of us as adult learners,” he said. “There were many that wanted to quit, but we banned together and helped each other across the finish line.”
Baker also noted that he regularly finds ways to apply the human service skills he learned in the classroom to his job. “Because I’ve developed a better understanding of people’s issues and stronger communication skills, I now understand that when people have bad days on the job, it may have nothing to do with work,” he explained. “My job is to listen, allow them to express their frustrations and empathize with them. Because of my skills in this area, I’ve been called on many times at my job to deescalate situations. I approach those situations with confidence because my education has properly prepared me for the task.”
Through it all, Baker has steadfastly clung to the belief that faith and ministry should be integrated into all aspects of life – including work. “I integrate my faith in work by walking with and encouraging my staff,” he explained. “Jesus was always in the mix. He taught, inspired, motivated and always pulled greatness out of an individual.” He mentioned one instance where his ministry efforts in the workplace were noted. “Most of the company knows that I’m a Christian. So in many difficult times, they have looked to me for inspiration,” he said. “That’s great for me because I get to show the love of Jesus. In 2017, I received a Service Manager of the year award for my region,” explained Baker. “When I shared how surprised I was that I won the award with other managers, one of them said, ‘Why are you surprised? We expected nothing less because you are a Christian.’ That caught me off guard. Others chimed in and said, ‘It shows in you leadership skills. You are always willing to help and support others in the company.’ I think it’s because of this that my colleagues have trusted me enough to approached me to ask me to pray for personal issues.” It these skills that Baker has honed – both in ministry and his career in human services – that set him apart as minister and employee. And who knows? Maybe he’ll find time in his full schedule to teach human services someday. Until then, you’ll find working for the kingdom in Philadelphia, however, he can.