When Scott Hagan was growing up in Statesboro, it was a toss-up as to whether he would become a pastor or a basketball coach. He still loves sports, but his true calling brought him back home to lead Statesboro First Methodist Church as its pastor.
It is a rewarding experience in that Hagan gets to return to his hometown, where his family has a lengthy history. He came aboard as the church’s new pastor in June.
“I am humbled to have this opportunity, for many reasons,” he told the Statesboro Herald. “This is an amazing church, with a legacy over 130 years long in serving this community and caring for our neighbors.”
Hagan attended first grade through high school in Statesboro. “My children are the fifth generation of my family to call Statesboro home, over the span of every one of the past eleven decades,”
he said. “My great-grandfather, Dr. Joseph Carruth, was hired to come teach education at South Georgia Teacher's College in 1927. Later on my parents would meet at Georgia Southern, and then they moved my brother Kirk and I back here in 1980 when my Dad started teaching biology at the college.”
The church has long been an influential force in Hagan’s family. “My grandfather, Carlton, and his twin brother were actually approved and sent into the ministry from Statesboro First UMC in 1942. That, in itself, makes returning to pastor the church that nurtured the call in their lives so very special,” he said. “In so many ways, it feels like God has been involved in our family moving here.”
Basketball or church?
As a child, Hagan attended Pittman Park UMC. “It was there that great volunteers and pastors helped me grow. This sounds silly, but as a high school junior I felt God calling me to two possible paths, either as a pastor or a college basketball coach. It felt like a 50/50 choice.”
At the time he was helping the late Coach Lee Hill at Statesboro High School as a student manager, even though Hagan “couldn't make a left-handed lay-up.” Hill encouraged him to enroll at Georgia Technical College, where he started working with the basketball team, again as a student manager. He later worked for the Atlanta Hawks, the USA Men's Olympic Team, and coached for two years in college.
“It was an incredible experience and I loved it,” he said. “I have stories about meeting (several famous players and coaches). Yet, all the while I would volunteer on Sundays evenings as a youth counselor in whatever town I was living in. For as much fun as I was having coaching, at the end of the week serving at the church was the most rewarding.”
That was his answer. “Through that, I felt God gently telling me that the call to be a pastor was the correct one, and I enrolled in seminary the next year.”
The Hagan family
Hagan celebrated his 20th anniversary of marriage to wife Julie “with take-out Italian food in the midst of half-packed moving boxes,” he said. Their oldest son, Sam, is a freshman at Georgia Southern University. His brother, Jack, is a sophomore at Statesboro High School, where Julie is an educator.
The Hagans are a sports family, he said. “My wife is a huge sports fan and the boys take after her. The (Atlanta) Braves are on every night in our house, and Saturdays in a normal fall are most definitely for college football.”
He enjoys playing tennis and has been doing so “with our boys since they were little,” he said. “It was fun and I loved showing off my skills until about two years ago, when they both passed me in ability and stamina. They now thoroughly enjoy beating me all over the court and reliving it for days. “
Coming back to Statesboro and reuniting with the community is quite rewarding, he said. “Even in this short period of time, I have loved being welcomed back to pastor persons and families that I thought the world of in my youth. From past schoolteachers, and scout leaders, to neighbors, and Sunday school teachers, and classmates that I looked up to, I am reconnecting with people who influenced me.”
Leading people in prayer and spiritual growth is especially important in today’s atmosphere, Hagan said. “This year has delivered uncertainty in greater amounts than any season in most of our memories. Some of the challenges are new, and some have been present but not seen by everyone. The events of 2020 send people looking for meaning to help them prioritize what matters
“Throughout human history, our values have been largely shaped by connections with people who care about us,” he said. “The problem is that the busyness of the world keeps us distant, which makes people feel isolated. I believe God made us for relationships, so when the phone rings at 2 a.m. I will have someone I can count on in the crisis.”
The coronavirus pandemic, nationwide unrest and other headline news can have a heavy effect on families, he said. “For me, personally, I believe the greatest challenge for families is the feeling of disconnect that leads them down the path of doubt and worry that no one cares, including God. The local church exists to connect people and give them confidence when we all need it most.”
Hagan looks forward to being a positive addition to the church and community.
“I hope to enter and lead at Statesboro First Methodist like someone who is seen as just one small part of the greater team God has been working through for so very long,” he said. “I want to bring a sense of reaching back into our history to that God's Spirit can be heard leading us into our future.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.