The Rev. Todd Michael Starnes’ experience with a youth evangelism group has proved valuable to his work as pastor of the First Assembly of God Church, which has more than doubled its average Sunday morning attendance since his September 2013 arrival.

Referring to the Lubbock-based Youth Alive group that works in West Texas and New Mexico, Starnes said, “We targeted at-risk youth in the 10 years I worked with them.

“You’ve got to be able to relate to them. They don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care. Just be yourself and love them. That melts a lot of barriers down. I can’t imagine being a teenager in this culture now. They may have 1,000 friends on Facebook but not many in real life. Teens need church more than ever.”

Starnes grew up at Big Lake and graduated from Midland Lee in 1992. He attended Midland College for two years and was a youth pastor in Monahans and at Open Door Assembly of God Church in Odessa before working as an associate pastor in Amarillo and Lamesa. He and his wife Angela have three children. He has also studied at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie.

Starnes’ 1101 N. Lee Ave. church averages 180 people at its 10:30 a.m. Sunday services. His associate is the Rev. Larry Elder.

Preaching a four-week series about new beginnings this month and planning one on relationships and marriage in February, the 43-year-old minister said it’s crucial for couples “to let go of bitterness and walk in forgiveness toward one another.”

Citing Ephesians 4:29, he said, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Deacon Ken Brown said Starnes relates easily to all types of people. “Todd loves to hunt and fish, and that gives him another thing to relate to men with,” Brown said.

“He comes at you with down-to-earth, practical ways to live out your Christianity and grow stronger. Todd and his wife are a great team because Angela has the same ability to relate to women. She can talk to anyone about anything and be comfortable doing it.”

Starnes’ parents Charles and Betty are in Knox City. His dad was a contract pumper and a production foreman for Citation Oil & Gas. He has two sisters.

“I had been hearing that still, small voice since I was 13,” he said. “One Sunday night in February 1994, I walked into the First Assembly of God Church in Midland and went straight to the altar and knelt down. A bunch of people knelt around me and started praying with me, and I have never looked back.”