If you love Christian music, you should know about LightsOut, a non-profit 501c3 organization that ministers to those who are ministering to you through music.
Pastor Dave Decker, Jr. and his wife, Emily, fifteen-year veterans of youth ministry, founded LightsOut to minister to members of Christian bands, as well as speakers and other traveling evangelists, many who spend most of the year on the road, away from their families and church families. The Deckers provide “prayer, care, counsel, Bible study, food, and even a place to stay”—a spiritual home away from home—for these traveling musicians.
In his interview with Divine Detour, Dave Decker shares the personal detour that put his ministry “on the road.”
What sparked the idea for your ministry?
I have always loved music, hosted shows at our church when I was a youth pastor, and have volunteered with a music festival (booking the bands for the youth/rock stage) in our area for about twelve years. Thru those experiences, I’d gotten to know the other side of the stage and the stories of many of the artists, some of the less glamorous realities of touring life. Because of our connection with these artists, we often fed and hosted them at our house as they traveled thru our area. We had a soft spot in our heart for them and felt compassion and connection to the artists and speakers and knew well that, though it was a good hour on stage, there were twenty-three others that had to be lived, and often those were lived surrounded by people but feeling alone on the road.
What is the significance of the name LightsOut?
The name “LightsOut” and the heart of the ministry came from a few things, but most significantly, as a youth pastor, the worst part of my week was always RIGHT after the best part of my week. Wednesday night, after a room filled with kids and noise and ministry, everyone went home and I was the last to leave. I remember vividly that incredibly loud silence of the “CLICK” when I shut the last light off, and how alone I felt in that moment and the moments following. It is always darkest after it is brightest, and I often felt the darkness come calling after flipping that switch. When the LIGHTS go OUT—what are you made of, who are you? That is the question & the ministry of LightsOut—who are you when you step off stage? (Whatever your stage may be.)
We believe that what matters, the core of a person, is integrity. And it is our goal that you are a person of deep character outside of your craft. So, thru LightsOut, I am a pastor to artists, and that means a different thing to each artist, just like YOUR pastor likely has a different relationship with each parishoner he/she serves. We want to point people to a relationship with Jesus; sometimes that means a place to sit out of the sun at a festival, sometimes a meal, sometimes a listening ear and advice, often a word of Scripture or a Bible study. It also means that we’ll be there in a few weeks to minister to artists when the festival is done, or the venue is closed, or the concert is over.
Are you and/or Emily also musicians?
There are musicians, and there are people with guitars. I am a person with a guitar. : ) I have always had music in my blood; my grandpa and grandma and my mom’s family had a band, playing Johnny Cash and old country music. I played piano and trumpet in school, and have played youth pastor guitar for years. It is therapeutic for me, and that’s actually how I started playing guitar—it was a friend to me. But alas—I am no musician. Emily has a beautiful voice, but is not a musician either—we are in ministry, and the people group we serve just happens to be connected to music.
What’s the most difficult part of your work?
I am a very relational individual, and it is difficult to not be in contact with the artists on a regular basis face to face. I have had to really focus on the obedience of what I’ve been called to do and embrace that God will do the work on the other side of my obedience. In youth ministry, I got to see kids two times a week, got to know parents, families, etc., and I really miss that. I volunteer with our church youth group, but I sure miss that with how ministry happens with artists. I have had to adjust and learn and grow up in how I feel about ministry vs. what I know to be true in ministry. There are always heart breaking stories of artist’s faith journeys, choices being made, people being hurt by the church, people hurting the church, stuff that is present everywhere but still tough to hear. The last thing is raising support—it takes a TON of time and energy and if you don’t look at the connection with donors as ministry too, it would be very draining. I try to focus on how the people who donate are doing, how their families are, and look at that as ministry too.
What has been the biggest blessing to come from your work?
It has been super surprising to see the scope of people we’ve been able to serve—way different than what I expected. I thought those who would need what we had would be small regional bands, but it’s been a lot different, and I’ve gotten the chance to serve all over the country and a little internationally too. We have also been brought to tears by the way people have sacrificially given—even some folks who we’ve never met or talked to! We have also learned to trust so much more deeply than we ever did when financial security felt so much more guaranteed.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your ministry that turned out to be positive?
LightsOut was born a out of a detour. I applied for a couple youth pastor jobs that I really think I should have gotten—or at least gotten interviews for—but both jobs, on the same day, told me the same thing. It was a kick in the gut of my ego but was the catalyst for thinking creatively about ministry that was, in my mind, going to just be a ‘side project’ for our real ministry. It was raising our own financial support, giving up retirement, medical insurance, and good salary, but it just was right on so many other levels, and my wife and I were in such agreement as well—we knew it was of the Lord. Detour became THE Tour. : )
A few fun questions…
On or off the road, what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Off the road, chicken enchiladas and also my wife makes these unreal lemon-blueberry-almond cookies, but I can only eat about thirty of them at a time. ; ) In Chicago—Portillo’s. West Coast—In-N-Out Burger. Nashville—Ahi Wasabi Caesar Salad at Jackson’s by Fido.
What was the last GREAT book you read?
I am pretty selective on GREAT things, and it was a few years back already, but I HATED getting to the end of Blue Like Jazz—I knew it was ending, but it made me sad. So I think that makes it great in my book. I am in the midst of the Bonhoeffer book by Metaxas too, it has good potential. : )
Are you a major or a minor chord?
Major, but not always one that resolves.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
Hmmm…. I’d land somewhere in between mad scientist and childlike adult. Maybe Dr. Frankenstein’s Grover?
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
We have two awesome dogs, Miniature Schnauzers, Shively & Derby. They are the first things that greet artists when they come into Doris (our RV) to find respite at the summer festivals.
I also had a few horses as a kid that I loved very much—Blondie, Heady, and Happy.
Thanks, Dave! May God bless your work for Him. It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
~ ~ ~
For more information about LiveLightsOut and to learn how you can help, visit their website www.LiveLightsOut.org.
Thank you so much for sharing about this most important ministry! Blessings on your mission, Dave and Emily!