Cliff Ritter never planned on a life in ministry. He finished college with a degree in computer science, married his high school sweetheart, and went to work selling engineering computers across the southwest.
But once he and his family started attending church regularly, he realized God had different plans for his life.
“It just came to a point where I started evaluating who I was and what I wanted to accomplish in life,” he says. “I volunteered for different agencies, and I landed on Crisis Intervention Center of Houston.”
One night there would change his life forever. After everyone else had gone home, he took a call from a woman who was in a very dark place and a risk to herself, and nothing in his intervention training was working.
“I was at the end of all of my resources, and I looked at the bookshelf, and on the very bottom shelf there was this book in a plain manila book cover,” he says. “You couldn’t tell what it was, but I grabbed it for some reason, and it was the Bible.”
After reading her a passage, the woman’s demeanor changed and when the conversation ended, he knew the Spirit of God had been there. As he left the building, he knew God was calling him to pursue seminary.
He moved to Dallas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. “At that time, I thought (my calling) may be to be a counselor as opposed to a pastor,” he says. “And what dawned on me was that when things are really most difficult and at the end, it’s counselors that refer everyone to their pastor. I really had a sense from God that I needed to be one of those guys who was there when even the counselor had to refer to someone. And that was ultimately to be a pastor.”
Following seminary, he worked for Insight for Living and three small Methodist churches near the Oklahoma border before joining the staff at The Woodlands UMC in 2009.
“I have the opportunity to meet hurting, broken people — wounded people —where they are; and I have a chance to walk with them along a journey of healing and restoration and recovery,” he says. “As challenging as it can be, it’s also the thing that really causes me to live and breathe.”
Cliff and his wife, Lauri, have two children, Garrett and Michelle, and two grandchildren, Levi and Aria.