James “Jim” Kilby is the Founder and President of Harvest Youth Ministries, and the Harvest Youth Ministry Network (HYMN), both non-denominational Christian youth outreach organizations. He is also the founding Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in West Carrollton, Ohio, and the founder of Harvest House, a residential home for disadvantaged young women. He is 57 years old, happily married with ten children and ten grandchildren. Jim is also a retired Air Force officer. During his Air Force career, Jim worked as a program manager on some of the coolest and most classified systems in the world.
One of Jim’s favorite things to do is challenge a crowd! If it’s young people, he exhorts them to embrace the Cross and follow Jesus with a passion! If it’s adults or more mature Christians, his insight into outreach and uncanny ability to inspire people to engage the next generation are incredibly effective! Schedule Jim to speak at a service or retreat: Jim@JamesKilby.com
Jim is definitely not your typical pastor. Not raised in the church, he rarely entered one as a young man. His father abandoned his mother and his little sister before his second birthday. He was raised by his very young mother and a line of several stepfathers. Along the way, his mother had two more children, making Jim the eldest of four.
For much of his life, Jim lived in virtual poverty. His family frequently found themselves on State or Federal assistance. His mother’s career as a country and western singer kept her away from the home much of the time. The family moved from state to state–and the kids moved from school to school. Their home was often a difficult environment. As the eldest child, Jim was routinely left to care for his younger brothers and sisters. Although incredibly difficult, this task instilled in him a deep-rooted sense of responsibility. It’s also where he began to learn the leadership skills that would later make him successful in the Air Force and then in ministry.
With a lack of supervision and no spiritual foundation, drugs and alcohol helped Jim get himself into trouble with school officials and with the police as he neared the age of 13. At 15, Jim fathered his first son… and because of the transient nature of the next two decades of his life, a son he didn’t know existed until the son was 22 and Jim was 38!
At fifteen, Jim’s mother sent him to live with an ex-step-father half way across the states. With “male-supervision,” Jim cleaned-up his act some, but after returning to live with his mother a year later, he again found himself in trouble with the police. After an argument with his mother, he moved out on his own at 17. He then dropped-out of high-school and took a job as a construction laborer.
Constantly drinking, using drugs, and running with a very rough crowd, at 17, Jim began to wonder how he had slipped so far. The realization that his life was on the wrong track often brought back thoughts of a profession of faith he had made during vacation bible school at the age of twelve. While attending the week-long school, Jim accepted the fact that he was a sinner and prayed to receive Jesus’ as his Lord and Savior. Still, without any real Christian upbringing, he was at a loss for what to do next and how to grow in his faith. Looking back, he believes the Holy Spirit led him to act upon a dream planted in his heart by his mother many years before. In a moment of amazing foresight, she told Jim she believed he would one day be an officer in the United States Air Force. Knowing he had to make a dramatic change, one day Jim quietly walked into the office of an Air Force recruiter. With the military’s help, Jim received a GED, and after requesting and receiving several enlistment waivers due to his run-ins with the law, entered the Air Force in early 1980 and was first stationed in Rammstein, West German, in support of the Cold War.
Although a hard worker, Jim’s off-duty antics had him facing possible courts martial proceedings no less than four times during his first tour of duty. Finally, the military’s rules and regulations helped Jim get his career on track, but his private life was quickly on the wrong path again. Inside he was still a very angry young man.
After marrying a young lady he got pregnant, Jim’s antics off-duty finally calmed down. Still, his marriage was built on a very weak foundation. Soon after the birth of their second child, the marriage was in serious trouble. Caught in severe depression, Jim’s first wife made a serious attempt to take her own life. It was during the aftermath of this suicide attempt and the subsequent divorce that Jim finally sought the peace and love of Jesus Christ.
After finding a church and with mentoring from several Christian men, God put Jim’s life back on-track. Still, he had left three children, a wife, and many others in his path of destruction.
In 1992, Jim met and married the love of his life, the former Jill Brensinger of Waldorf, Maryland, They were both baptized together that same year. Soon, Jim began working on an undergraduate degree at night and on the weekends. While stationed at the Pentagon, Jim finally completed his bachelor’s degree; finishing with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Later, he applied for an appointment to Air Force Officer Training School, and was selected. On June 22, 1994 he turned-in hard-fought Master Sergeant stripes for the gold bars of a second lieutenant.
With the help of the Lord, Jim had finally achieved the dream his mother had planted in him so many years before. He was an Air Force officer! Funny though, it wouldn’t be long before God would ask Jim to give up his military career, in favor of reaching out to young people with the Gospel.
Following that call, Jim founded Harvest Youth Ministries in the fall of 1997 with a small teen center in Kettering, Ohio. In February of 2000, Captain Jim Kilby resigned his Air Force commission and retired to pursue ministry on a full-time basis. Under his leadership, that organization is still growing and reaches tens of thousands of youth each year. In October 2006, Jim founded Harvest Christian Fellowship in Xenia, Ohio. In April 2007, the church grew and moved to Kettering, Ohio, and in April 2014 they purchased 10 acres and a building at the current location, 125 Wilson Park Drive, West Carrollton, Ohio. www.HarvestDayton.org Jim’s greatest desire is to engage today’s mostly unchurched youth culture with the love of Christ.
Jim’s hobbies include flying airplanes, playing golf, motivational speaking, and teaching mixed martial arts. Mostly though, he just likes to sit on the lake with his family and look at water!
Jim is quick to point out that his Lord and Savior deserves all the credit for his transformation from high school drop-out to college graduate and beyond. His current goals include continuing to grow closer to Christ as he works hard to balance his public ministry with being a spiritual leader, mentor and friend to his wife and his children. The Kilby family currently resides in Beavercreek, Ohio.