Lead Pastor - Dr. Bob "Doc" Swanger
Pastor Bob was raised in a Christian home and his father was a very successful pastor and evangelist who traveled worldwide. At the age of 13, Pastor Bob gave his life to Christ and lived the average teenager's life. His Sophomore year in college he made a decision for Jesus to be his Lord in addition to Savior and it was at this point he knew he was called into the ministry.
He attended Ashland Theological Seminary (a part of Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio) and obtained his Master of Divinity degree in 1983. He returned to Ashland and received a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1989.
Pastor Bob began his full time ministry at Thurmont United Methodist Church in Thurmont, Maryland as a youth pastor in 1983. After one year he received and accepted a call to Christ the King Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. He spent seven years as youth pastor/worship leader and his ministry grew significantly. He was a vital part of the building team that put together Christ the King's (now Polaris Christian) new campus on the Polaris development in North Columbus.
Pastor Bob received a call to the Rock Church in York, Pennsylvania and the church grew from 50 to 180 in less than two years. The church was doing so well the senior pastor decided to "unretire."
After much prayer and investigating calls in Moline, Illinois and Bradenton, Florida, Pastor Bob and Debbie planted the River Community Church in Delaware County in 1993.
The River moved into the Barn on US 42 in 2000.
Pastor Bob is a Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer survivor. He is in remission as pronounced by his oncologist and we know he is alive by the grace of God.
He has been given a dream of teaching the iY generation (Millennials) the Biblical Christian Worldview by using i-media.
Pastor Bob was a four-year letterman in varsity tennis at number one singles and doubles at Wilmington College and team MVP. He was the Ashland County Tournament Champion in singles and doubles and the team champ (at number one position) of the Ashland City Team Tennis League. He played in the Worthington NCAA Sanctioned Basketball League.
Pastor Bob is a dedicated family man, was married to his beautiful wife, Debbie, for 37 years before she passed away in 2018. They had thirteen wonderful children: Kristie, Katie, Kellie, Karlie, Kammie, Bobby, Ben, Kaylie, Bear, Blaze, Kassiddie, Brett and Boaz. Ben was adopted from Russia and Kaylie is adopted and has a Columbian background. Bear, Blaze, Kassiddie, Brett and Boaz were adopted after being foster children. We know that Debbie is in a place of joy with the Lord and Pastor Bob is committed to raising his young children.
Assistant Pastor Katie Sare
Katie has had a passion for teen ministry as far back as she can remember, even when she was only a child of 7 and her parents ran a youth group in York, Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, Katie became involved in youth ministry as a leader at The River. She continued in that path for 11 years, only stopping when she was out of town working. Even when she was elsewhere in the country on assignment as a cardiovascular ultrasound tech, she lost no time becoming involved in local churches and their youth ministries.
It was on one of these assignments that Katie would meet her future husband, Mike. She walked into a young adult small group at Living Stones in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and there he was…waiting for her. They dated for 10 weeks before Katie had to return home to Ohio. She was home for a week before she left again, this time with her father for a mission trip to India. Over the next six months Mike and Katie wouldn’t go one day without talking on the phone, despite the complications of a six hour time difference.
It was also during this time that her father, Doc (Pastor Bob), and the family were discovering the truth about his cancer. Katie wasn’t prepared to leave the family, given her father’s health conditions. But Doc insisted that she had to go back to Hawaii, to discover if Mike was part of God’s plan for her life. So, when everyone believed that Doc’s cancer had been removed, she went back to Kona. It was a week after this, that Katie received a phone message from her mother saying that the cancer had spread and Doc had to be taken to have an emergency liver removal. Katie was stuck in Hawaii.
But, Doc came through the surgery with flying colors. Katie and Mike soon after decided that Mike should relocate to Ohio at the beginning of the next year, 2009. He stepped off the plane in Columbus, Ohio on a blustery January, without a pair of pants to his name (he hadn’t needed any in Hawaii).
Katie and Mike worked as youth leaders together until the previous youth pastor, Galen McLeod, left to plant The Vessel Church, as the lead pastor. Katie assumed the role of youth director for a little more than a year, before being approached by Doc with the idea of becoming a full-fledged youth pastor. The idea of being a pastor hadn’t occurred to Katie, as she hadn’t attended seminary. But she was granted her license, in 2017, on the merit of years of service and demonstration of successful ministry.
Katie and Mike are now the parents of three beautiful children. More than anything, Katie wants to see teens who are on fire for God, and love Jesus with all their hearts. For Katie, ministry is a whole family endeavor and experience, and her husband and children are a part of it all with her. And youth ministry is a whole picture endeavor, Katie wants kids to have health lives: spiritually, with their families, physically, emotionally and academically.
In addition to being the worship leader at The River, Mike owns a plumbing company: Everett's Plumbing Solutions. Katie works as a Cardiovascular Sonographer for OhioHealth. They've lived in Ostrander for the past 7 years.
Assistant Pastor Al Myers
The Myers family operates an 11.5 acre farm from a residence that was originally built in 1830, having been restored by us in 1994. In addition to the farm, my wife (Shelly) and I felt a calling to open a coffee and confection shop in 2010 and soon after opening it became clear that it was meant to be a Christian based business were God’s words are spoken openly. We placed bibles and devotionals on the tables, hung a caulk board that provides a new scripture passages every week. We welcomed small groups, business meetings, bible studies and youth groups to utilize Choffeys as their host home.
As a newly licensed Pastor (1 ½ years) through the Harvest Network, I have been blessed many times. Most recently God has lead me into the Music Shop business (even musician’s need Christ). Having named the store Cross Strings, our calling is to plant the seed of Christ in every customer. Recently, God once again blessed me by giving me the opportunity to become an Assistant Pastor at our family church (River Community Church). There I will continue working with Bob Swanger in Leaders Training as well as providing Pastoral oversight in the growth of our small groups. After completing a Pastors training program from Christ the King University (David Browning). I hope to receive my Ordination through H.N.I. While continuing biblical/pastoral studies through Christian Leadership Institution seeking a Pastors diploma. All the while following whatever path that God places on my heart.
Assistant Pastor Drew Collins
Pastor Drew has spent the majority of his life working in the entertainment industry as a recording artist, stand-up up comedian, actor, published writer, and Entertainment Director for Dick Clark Productions.
Initially seeking to broaden his horizons by enrolling in college to major in theatre and film, he would drastically alter that journey when feeling called by the Lord to give his skill sets to God and serve Him only.
Pastor Drew graduated from Ohio Christian University with a degree in Leadership and Ministry and, under the mentorship of Dr. Bob Swanger, was licensed and ordained by the Harvest Network in the summer of 2017.
He has two amazing daughters and, along with his lovely wife Grace, is fully committed to serving the Lord and doing their part in the Great Commission.
In addition to serving as an assistant Pastor at The River, Drew and Grace (who’s education is in Health & Wellness) are currently developing a faith-based addiction recovery outreach network as one of the many fruits produced by The River Barn church.
Assistant Pastor Beth Nicholson
The daughter of missionary parents, Beth grew up in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. The Lord began drawing her and she gave her life completely to Him at the age of 8. Always sensing that missions was a calling for her and not just her parents, she began teaching her Sunday School lessons to friends from surrounding villages and assisting her mother in preparing women’s materials for Sunday School ministry. At 15, while attending a Wycliffe boarding school, she was baptized in a wild New Guinea river by a national pastor; a decision that set her on a path to a deeper commitment.
Beth returned to the U.S. at the age of 16 and experienced a profound call on her life to love people and help them find an eternal home in the Kingdom of God. She enrolled in what is now Ohio Christian University and received a B.A. in Missions and Education. Following college, she taught English to inmates at Chillicothe Correctional Institute and entered into graduate studies at Ohio State University for Foreign Language Education.
In 1992 she married Eric Nicholson who later went into law enforcement and currently serves as a K9 officer. They have three beautiful children who are all seeking after God and working in the Kingdom in unique and exciting ways. Over the years she has led youth ministries for girls, assisted in church planting and has provided leadership for women’s ministries, worship and home groups.
Beth’s passion is to make the story of God’s love, the truth of the good news of Jesus and the reality of our active, dynamic partnership with the Holy Spirit very real and accessible to people of all backgrounds, cultures and ages through Scripture. Her calling is to evangelize through the Word. In pursuit of this calling, she has been accepted for ordination through Harvest Network International and is looking forward to all the new things the Lord has prepared for her to walk in. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass! (1 Thess 5:24)