|Mike Soltis is the new
pastor of Mt. Zion United Brethren Church on Bays Road. 11/18/09 (Photo: J.D.
WAYNE – Mike Soltis, a previous city guy, is adapting very well as a country pastor.
Soltis has served as the pastor of Mt. Zion United Brethren Church, 7481 Bays Road, in rural Wayne since
March, and he is enjoying it. His previous post was serving a church in Youngstown.
"You can’t hardly get lost here," Soltis joked.
On a more serious note, he said he has truly enjoyed the friendliness and openness of the people in the
congregation and the community. Soltis said he was also impressed with the "family atmosphere"
of the Wood County Fair.
"There seems to be a real concern about children here in the schools, and I like that," he
He fills the pulpit formerly held by longtime and popular pastor Lee Hiney, who left the post last year.
"I can’t replace him, I can only succeed him," Soltis said.
"There’s noting really fancy about me, I’m just down to earth," he noted.
Though born in Mentor, he is no stranger to small-town life. He spent most of his youth in Pennsylvania
in the small towns of Cochranton and Sheakleyville, in the western part of the state not far from
Raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Soltis says he had a conversion at the Ralph Bell Crusade in October
While he understands now the Catholic faith does believe in people having a personal relationship with
God, that was a message he never had been given until that crusade.
"I always believed God existed, but he always was distant," Soltis said until Bell, who was
with the Billy Graham organization at the time introduced Soltis to the concept of a personal
relationship with Christ.
"It was one of those dramatic changes. Everything … my world view … everything changed from that
moment on," he recalled.
Railroad work and a nine-year stint with the Army, including active duty and reserves, eventually gave
way to his current vocation.
As his faith was growing he attended Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., a Christian liberal arts college in
the Wesleyan-holiness tradition, where he received his degree in Bible theology.
Prior to coming to Mt. Zion, Soltis served in the Evangelical Congregation Church with different
congregations. His first church was in the Appalachians, followed by service to other churches in both
Pennsylvania and Ohio.
When the opportunity in Wayne arose, Soltis realized he truly was more "theologically aligned"
with the United Brethren beliefs.
Six of his 16 years in ministry were served in Youngstown. However, he believes that the time was right
for this mood as God opened the doors.
"I just had the sense for this position that this was where I was to go," said of the Mt. Zion
opportunity. "It just seemed like the doors were open."
Soltis said of his framework for the church, "The mission of every local church is to be and make
He says that is fulfilled by loving God, loving each other and serving the world with that same kind of
Since Soltis’ arrival, the church has added a welcome center, spruced up the appearance by painting both
the interior and exterior of the church.
In other matters, he has helped revamp the youth ministry (see story below) and added a new leader for
the church’s contemporary service.
His hope is that the leader for the contemporary service will help reach out to the younger generation.
The youth ministry night was moved from Wednesday to Sunday.
"Our next goal is to be looking at more children’s outreach," Soltis said adding he is also
looking at greater emphasis on local missions.
He wants to foster more partnerships with other churches. One such action will be an upcoming community
New Year’s Eve celebration.
Overall, Soltis has settled in; however, as an avid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he says there are too
many Cincinnati and Cleveland fans here.
"I can’t do much about that," he laughed. "I won’t give up the Steelers, yet."
He is also a fan of Penn State and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is also an avid reader, and a family man.
He enjoys watching Turner’s classic movies, and doing things with his hands.
"Mowing the yard is enjoyable."
Soltis and his wife, Brenda, have two adult sons, and their first grandson is now 3.
Wayne church revamps youth program for ‘today’s church’
WAYNE – After Mike Soltis became pastor of Mt. Zion United Brethren Church on Bays Road in rural Wayne,
one of his projects is to work with other church members to revitalize the youth ministry.
"I don’t see the youth as tomorrow’s church, I actually see them as today’s church," the pastor
As such, he wants to assure the youth have a great foundation to build upon.
"We started from scratch," Soltis said.
Likely the most notable aspect was moving the program from Wednesday to Sundays.
"The basic idea is want to create an environment where kids can hang out in a safe Christian
environment," he stated. "We want a place where they can hear the message, but also a place
where they can bring their friends."
He added, "We are not going to water down the message, but at the same time have a place to hang out
where they can say, ‘these people care about us.’"
Phil Shaffer and others from the church helped with the revitalization of the ministry.
The Sunday program begins with free time at 5:30 p.m., with the programs or worship beginning at 6 p.m.
They usually wrap up by 8 p.m.
The program is targeted for students in sixth through 12th grade.
Soltis says there is open gym time, a worship service, activities, free time and "all kinds of
things" for the youth.
"They need heroes and an environment to hear about the things of God," Soltis said.
One of Soltis’ adult sons, Josh, leads the music for the youth service.
"It’s only been about six weeks, so we’re still in the process," the pastor indicated.
However, he says it is going well and they are seeing some students on Sunday who had not been attending
"It’s a start."
There are also outreach events, and the church plans on developing mission trips for the youth.