The Music Pastor at Ben Franklin Middle School

Jack Martens is a fifty-six year old teacher who has spent 33 years teaching music at Ben Franklin Middle School in San Francisco.

“Over 50 percent of Martens’ students are from broken homes. The same number are on welfare. Nearly that many come from families where English is not the primary language. To that score, add the reality factor that funding for the arts has been all but cut off in Jack’s school district.”

He sees himself as Father Christmas bringing joy to girls and boys all year long. Jack’s ultimate desire is to help kids in his band see God’s love. Although Martens keeps a Bible and other Christian symbols on his desk, “it is his interaction with the kids that gives his witness a melody line.”

He eats lunch with them to give them a chance to talk through their problems at home with somebody. He stays after school to help with difficult fingerings with their instruments and difficult passages in life. Through the mechanics of music, he is able to communicate with disadvantaged and academically struggling students that they are capable of doing something beautiful with their lives.

Every December as the Band from Ben’s performs in the Nordstrom Plaza dressed in their nicely pressed white shirts, black slacks and skirts, it’s not only the Christmas shoppers that feel the spirit of the season. The kids in the band (who otherwise might be in a gang or in the juvenile detention center) feel the joy of God’s love incarnated through a man they love and respect.

Jack Martens “is a “minister” who marches to the beat of a different drummer. He is not ordained, has never been to seminary, and doesn’t preach from a pulpit. But he is a pastor nonetheless. Ask the over 10,000 students who have benefited from his ministry on the other side of a music stand.”

Source: From Mainstay Ministries’ Christmas series “The Christmas Touch: Making Christlike Connections during the Holidays.” Sample sermon for December 9, 2001. http://www.teamsundays.org

Contributed by: Jim Kane

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