By Chris Moon
After 23 years at the helm of Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Mich., Larry Carter is calling it a career.
Carter will retire at the end of May. He finishes his tenure as the longest actively serving president of an independent Christian church college. Frank Weller will take over as president of GLCC on June 1.
Carter is looking forward to preaching, teaching, and writing in retirement. He said he already has some projects planned—like recording the Carter family genealogy—but he remains open to wherever the Lord might lead.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he told Christian Standard. “God knows my heart. I’m just letting him show how that’s all going to work out.”
Altogether, Carter is closing in on 50 years of full-time ministry. He started as a 23-year-old preacher in 1973.
Now, he admits, after more than two decades leading a Christian college, “I’m kind of worn out.”
A ONE-YEAR COMMITMENT TO BIBLE COLLEGE
Carter grew up in Cincinnati. His father, John Carter, was an editor at Standard Publishing, where the elder Carter started working in 1949.
John Carter told his five boys they owed him at least one year at a Bible college. And, so, Larry Carter, who was not interested in ministry—he considered the idea of becoming a lawyer or politician—went to Cincinnati Bible College with the intention of staying only one year.
But during his second semester at CBC, Carter met his future wife. He decided not to leave.
“That’s the only reason I stayed,” he said.
After college, Carter moved to Springfield, Ill., to work with his uncle and aunt—Ralph and Zella McLean—running the Directory of Ministry.
He began attending a very small church in Auburn, Ill. When the pastor heard Carter graduated from Bible college, he asked him to serve as the church’s part-time youth minister.
Carter reluctantly agreed.
Carter said he remembers listening to a sermon in the sanctuary of that little church and thinking the pastor was “a pretty bad preacher.”
In that moment, Carter said, he felt God say to him, “At least he’s up there doing it.” That was Carter’s call to preach.
Two weeks later, out of the blue, Coburn Corners Church of Christ in St. Joe, Ind., contacted Carter. The church of 150 people wanted him as its senior pastor.
Carter started in March 1973—a very green 23-year-old pastor. He was so green, in fact, he actually got into a fight with a deacon during a church softball game.
“That church was very patient with me,” he said.
PREACHER, PROFESSOR, PRESIDENT
Carter preached at Coburn Corners for four years before moving to Delta (Ohio) Church of Christ, where he served seven years.
Then he spent 15 years at Kentwood Christian Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
When Carter arrived at Kentwood, the church had an interesting staff . . . “an incredible staff,” he said.
Andy Hansen was the church’s youth minister. Hansen would go on to lead Christ In Youth for many years.
The church’s music minister was Rich Mullins, who went on to Christian music fame shortly afterward.
While at Kentwood, Carter began teaching classes at Great Lakes Christian College. He eventually began working full-time both as a college professor and as the pastor at Kentwood.
Just when that became too much and Carter moved to resign his teaching position, the president of GLCC at the time—Jerry Paul—told him he was preparing to retire. Paul wanted Carter to take over.
Today, Carter thanks his dad for his insistence he spend one year in Bible college. It shaped his life—just as Carter said it has done for so many students he has helped shepherd through college.
“You start thinking deep thoughts” in college, Carter said.
He said he remembers struggling with his own faith and being shored up in Christ by his college professors. Carter said he’s seen the same thing happen at GLCC.
Carter recalled one student who barely was able to make it into GLCC. The young man sported an ACT score of only 11.
But the college did some research and discovered, as Carter said, the student had “given up on life.”
The student’s mother had passed away, and his father had made some questionable choices following her death. The student’s youth minister urged him to spend a year at GLCC.
By the time the student was a senior at the college, he was the captain of the basketball team. And then he went to the mission field in India.
“That is the kind of thing that warms my heart. That’s the thing that I feel so great about,” Carter said.
A SOURCE OF STABILITY
Phil Beavers, vice president of institutional advancement for GLCC, said Carter’s relationship with his students is what has made him stand out. Carter regularly ate in the college cafeteria and taught classes.
“Students were his number one priority. He created that atmosphere,” Beavers said. “He was definitely a mentor and friend to our students.”
Beavers also credited Carter with helping the college maintain stability in what has been a difficult time for small private colleges.
Beavers said Carter took the lead on construction of the Doty Center, GLCC’s gymnasium and events building, and the Knowles Learning Center, which houses faculty offices.
As Carter heads into retirement, he said he already has been approached about a ministry position at a megachurch, which he is considering.
Otherwise, he feels called to write about leadership in a church context—and about the Carter family genealogy, which has been traced back to the 1400s. One of his relatives was an early settler in Missouri.
“I’m going to be the writer of the family story,” he said.
Carter also said he would be willing to serve as an interim preacher when needed.
“I still feel like I have a lot to offer,” he said. “I am more mature at 72 than I ever was in my 40s.”
Great Lakes Christian College will host a retirement reception for Larry Carter from 6 to 8 p.m. this Friday (May 13) at Woodard Chapel and Library.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.