Greentree branches out

In spring 1977, 18-year-old Tom Ricks, KHS student, walked across the stage to receive his diploma, thinking one day he would be the head of the FBI. He had no idea at 55 he would be the lead pastor of Greentree Community Church (GTCC).

Twenty years after graduation, Tom and his wife Cindy founded GTCC with a group of 60 like-minded others. They all had the same goal: to renew and build communities by helping the people in them.

“For me, to find a group of people who wanted to start a church in Kirkwood and wanted me to help them do that is pretty special,” Tom said. “I know the community and know what it means to live in Kirkwood. It has a special place in my heart.”

Since 1999, the Greentree church organization has started three churches in Missouri. They’ve started churches in Webster Groves and downtown St. Louis, as well as in Columbia, Missouri.

“As people come to GTCC and Greentree has an impact on their lives, they want to have a church like GTCC in their own neighborhood,” Tom said. “ We help people get started with new churches. It’s good for us and we’d like to continue to do this.”

Tom, who has been in ministry for 33 years, was as a youth pastor for 13 years. He spent his first five years as a youth pastor in Tennessee before he moved back to St. Louis and continued his practice for the next four years. He worked with young and energetic kids he said he learned from.

“From being a youth pastor, he gets kids and has that sense of fun and mischievousness that people really enjoy being around,” Cindy Ricks, Pastor Ricks’ wife, said.

Tom now applies the knowledge he gained from working with kids to everyone he interacts with. When he founded GTCC, he immediately fit in with his disciples.

“He is humble, very transparent and honest, meaning he doesn’t put himself above anybody else,” Cindy said. “He loves seeing how his work affects other people’s lives. In that way he’s very relational.”

Tom continues to form bonds with the members of his church. He lives the life of a normal guy in Kirkwood.

“He’s a guy that can relate to what we go through in our everyday life,” Frank Cusumano, KSDK sportscaster and member of GTCC, said.  “He’s a scholar and just a great pastor.”

As for the work done and the impact GTCC has on the community, the church helps people when they are in need. Members are often closed-minded in their actions, but the result is felt by a whole community.

“They aren’t very open about it, and their actions often go unnoticed,” Tom said. “I couldn’t even tell you half the stuff that the people of Greentree do to serve their community because they do it very quietly and don’t make a big deal about it. That’s the type of people that make up GTCC.”

The focus of GTCC is on people, how their work can affect the community and the people in it. Members of the church care about their community and is shown in their characters and actions.
“We have to be outward focused and not inward focused,” Tom said. “We’re not trying to build a castle in Kirkwood; we’re trying to build a kingdom.”