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A special series by WUWM's Maayan Silver. Maayan's stories air each Tuesday, beginning September 21, during Morning Edition 6:45 a.m. and 8:45 a.m.

The pandemic has taught Milwaukee Pastor Kenneth Lock that time and relationships are most important

Pastor Kenneth Lock
Courtesy of Kenneth Lock
Pastor Kenneth Lock

Family, faith, barbering and basketball are the passions of Milwaukee Pastor Kenneth Lock of Evolve Church. Lock runs the church near 91st and Good Hope at Vincent High School, but it will have a new space with mental health and financial literacy programs and tutoring for kids later this year. Lock also works for the Milwaukee Bucks as the only team barber/head chaplain in the NBA.

Being a pastor wasn’t always in the cards for Lock, even though he grew up watching his dad being one. “There's no way,” he recalls thinking. “Being a pastor, everybody wants you to be perfect. You got to live up to this status quo, and I'm just not for it.”

But, turns out, Lock loves to engage people. And being a pastor is all about that.

“I'll never meet a stranger,” he notes. “It doesn't matter who I run into. I think that we can just sit, it could have been our first conversation, and we could have went to a coffee and talked for an hour. Because I like engaging people and talking to people and loving on people.”

Lock says he also learned that pastors don't have to be perfect and live behind a façade. They can be transparent about their flaws, which opens the door to congregants.

"I think when people see a leader or a pastor who isn't afraid to be imperfect, and isn't afraid to be vulnerable and is able to get on stage and say, 'Hey, I have hard days [and] have difficult times,' when people see that vulnerability, they're like, 'Hey, this is a man like I am. A regular human like I am, who's facing day-to-day struggles and difficulties.' And it's just finding ways to find strength in it."

Lake Effect's conversation with Pastor Kenneth Lock

Day-to-day struggles and difficulties include those from the COVID-19 pandemic heading into its third year.

“Yeah, I have changed drastically, believe it or not,” Lock says. “The pandemic for me slowed life down enough for me to really look at what was most important.”

For Lock, that’s not a better house, a better car, traveling the world or dressing in the latest fashions. “For me, what was most important was ... spending time with my wife and my kids. Enjoying every moment and realizing that my daughter won't be five forever. Right now she wants to kiss every minute on the minute, but when she’ll be 15, she'll say, ‘Eww, dad, get away,’ you know, [so I’m] just appreciating these moments.”

That’s why he’s focusing on people, not material things. This year, Lock started a no-shopping challenge. He’s not buying anything but the absolute necessities.

"We're just not spending our money on anything, [we've decided] let's appreciate what we have. Because there are so many people who don't even have the things we have currently. And yet, we're looking for ways to spend more money. I call it material gluttony, where we just always want more and more and more. We're not appreciative of what we have. And I'm [now] leaning more so towards minimalism."

His wife is putting the brakes on some of Lock’s instincts. "I talked about selling our house and buying an RV and she said, ‘OK, let's stop, let's calm down for a minute,'" he laughs. "'Yeah, you get a bit beside yourself.' But I find my mind thinking of ways that two years ago, or 18 or 21 months ago, I just wasn't thinking and I just see life in a different lens.”

For him, what’s risen to the top are time and relationships. “Not money, not anything that can be purchased, but time and relationships. And that's all I want to pour into right now are the relationships that mean the most to me and give them the most of my time.”

Lock feels blessed to have people to love on, and he casts a wide net defining that. “When I say people I love I don't mean just my family, but as a pastor, anyone that I'm blessed to speak to, anyone that I'm blessed in to meet is a person, a loved one.”

Lock is not just a pastor, he’s also a barber and chaplain for the Bucks. His three passions, faith, barbering and basketball, have also provided wisdom for him during these times.

“Faith for me during this pandemic was actually hope. I remember a quote, I don't want to misquote the author or the speaker of it. It said, 'A way to kill a person and let them live is to take away their hope. Then when you take away the hope of a person, you've killed them already.' It's almost like a zombie walking," says Lock. "And so, faith for us was hope of really believing that even in the craziness of the chaos that we were dealing with, that it was going to get better. That my family was going to be safe and that we were going to find a way to make it through.”

On the other end, he says getting a great haircut has its merits as well. "I will say when you look better, you feel better. So take some time to take care of yourself, right? If even if you say, 'You know what, it's maybe $10 that I don't have. Twenty bucks I didn't think I was going to use on this.' But I realized that when I look in the mirror, and I feel better about myself, it naturally releases the proper endorphins, my psychology responds to it differently, and I honestly feel better. It's the same as being able to spend time in the sun. You actually will feel better."

So get out those scissors and sunglasses. And we all know the Bucks won the NBA championship this year. Does Lock have any pandemic basketball-related insights?

“How they say teamwork makes the dream work, but more so the mindset would be it's bigger than you,” Lock assesses. “One of the largest truths I’m constantly remind myself of is it's bigger than me, you know, there is an entire world and all of us are fighting to be safe as we can. And to be as responsible as we can and to keep our loved ones and our kids and the people that we hold most dear near and dear to our heart. We're trying to keep everybody safe. So, it really is bigger than me.”

He says it really is about the bigger picture overall.

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Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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