A senior cross country and track athlete at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), Crowson also serves as student pastor at Newalla, New Life. He has been at New Life for three months, after serving as student pastor at Shawnee, Hopewell for almost a year.
A full-time OBU student, a student athlete, a youth pastor at a church and also husband to his wife Kaylee, Crowson was asked how he is able to manage all of these roles and responsibilities.
“I really couldn’t tell you (how),” he responded. “When I first got involved in student ministry, I wasn’t sure that I would have time. I was already busy and wasn’t sure I could add that to my plate as well. But it seems like every time there is a need, God provides the time and provides a way for me to handle it all. I honestly can’t explain it. There seems to be just enough time to do it all.”
Crowson was an all-state runner at Marlow High School and helped lead the Outlaws to back-to-back state track titles during his junior and senior years. He has been a part of recent success the OBU Cross Country team has experienced this fall, with a first-place finish in the University of Central Oklahoma’s Land Run on Sept. 1 and a third-place finish in the OBU Invitational on Oct. 6. The Bison also finished 19th out of a loaded field of 49 teams at the University of Arkansas’ Chili Pepper Festival on Sept. 22.
As an experienced distance runner, Crowson knows his athletic experience has helped prepare him for serving in church ministry.
“There is something about endurance running and what I’ve learned through doing it,” he said. “Running competitively, I believe, has helped force me to suffer through whatever it is.”
Crowson credits his high school coach Matt Ivory on teaching him how to take life experiences one step at a time.“It’s the mindset of running that has helped me get through different things,” Crowson said, “focusing on what’s at hand and trusting God with that and not getting too overwhelmed looking at the entire big picture. I just have to trust God with each step that I take.”
He also appreciates having Kaylee in his life. She is a member of the OBU women’s track and cross country team, and they were married in July 2017.
“I don’t think I could manage all these things without her,” Crowson said about Kaylee. “She helps me in many different ways, whether that is in planning on how to get things done or just listening to me talk about things and ideas. That has been a tremendous help to me to have her by my side.”
Along with his athletic experience and support from Kaylee, Crowson believed God was preparing him for something major to happen. During his prayer time over the past month, he had a sense God was working in his life in such a way that he could not explain and did not know exactly what it would be.
Then, tragedy struck. On Oct. 5, 16-year-old Kaylen Thomas was shot and killed inside a home in McLoud. The incident was reported through several local news sources.
Thomas was a member of Newalla, New Life. Pastor Rick Ham said she made a profession of faith in Christ a few years ago and was “a vibrant and outgoing student athlete at McLoud High School.”
Crowson knew God had prepared him for this heartbreaking loss. He said, “It was overwhelming and painful, but I had this strange confidence, knowing God was working and that He was in control.
“Just thinking of all of our students who knew her and loved her,” he continued, “I prepared to minister to them and be available for them.”
On Sunday, Oct. 7, Ham rearranged the morning worship service at Newalla, New Life to specifically address the many issues surrounding Thomas’ death.
“In the midst of the tragedy, God has orchestrated the opportunity for outreach and ministry to the family and friends of Kaylen,” Ham said.
Crowson said they normally have four students attending on Sunday morning. That Sunday, 48 students came.
“Many of them we had never seen before,” Crowson said about students who were in attendance. “It was a great opportunity for them to come together. I thought it was incredible for them to come to the church Kaylen attended and to be there to honor her. It really was special and very emotional.”
Counselors from McLoud High School also attended Newalla, New Life that Sunday, and they offered Crowson to come to the school that week. He said students had permission to miss class to meet with counselors, and Crowson was among those available for counseling.
“I went Monday morning to the library,” Crowson said. “At least 20-25 students were there. I spent Monday and Tuesday at the school. It was encouraging for me to see the impact Kaylen had on everybody. Early Monday morning, there wasn’t a whole lot of talking. There was much more crying and just sitting. As students began to open up and talk about Kaylen and the life she lived, people started smiling and even laughing a little bit.”
Crowson was given the charge to officiate Thomas’ funeral service, the first he ever officiated. It was on Fri., Oct 12 at the McLoud High School Gym.
Ham said Crowson approached the funeral with “a God-given balance of confidence and humility.” He commended Crowson for how well prepared he was. He said it was evident that Nathan’s OBU professors instructed and train him well.
“I have been in ministry a long time and recently have been concerned about our upcoming generation’s spiritual future, particularly wondering what we will have for preachers,” Ham said. “With guys like Nathan coming on, I am confident that God is still calling His pastors and leaders.”
God prepared Crowson for an unexpected tragedy, and Crowson knows many of his life’s experiences and the people in his life were involved in the preparation.