Most people know how to answer, “What do you do?” even if they don’t know how to answer, “Whom do you serve?” But Kevin Kirkland isn’t most people.

Because he does so much, “What do you do?” is complicated. But “Whom do you serve?” is almost immediately obvious.

“Can I just put the money over here?”

Her daughter’s first private tumbling lesson with Coach (Pastor, Evangelist, Speaker, Author, Clothing Designer, American Ninja Warrior) Kevin Kirkland was wrapping up.

“Oh yeah. Everyone knows to just put it there. Seriously, I don’t keep track. I would have no idea if people didn’t pay.”

To Kevin, money isn’t the point.

On her way out, he stops his new athlete. “Hey, you’re awesome, OK? Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

During other lessons, Kevin talks boys with his girls. The rule is they have to bring a boy to meet him before they can “get serious.”

Christoval Senior Adyson Ocker said a private lesson with Kevin is more like a counseling session. During an hour-long session, they might spend half the time talking. Conversations roam from proper form to social media posts to cheer tryout strategies to parents, then back to tucking knees. And back and forth frequently to and from Jesus. “Doing life together.”

Kirkland’s sessions have an ingrained positive culture. Encouragement is constant. Failures are corrected with humor and tickle attacks instead of yelling.

To Kevin, building athletes isn’t the point, either.

“It’s a means to an end,” he said. “I want to be that call they make when things are hard.” According to his students, he is. He’s working on a third book. The title sums up his philosophy: “Teach the skill, coach the heart.”

In his first book, 2009’s Broken Walls: and those called to repair them, he wrote, “Week after week, I stand in front of a generation of young people who are broken and beaten by the world we have created for them.” Kirkland wants to create a different world. In his thinking, that kind of world building is what creativity boils down to.

“Creativity is greater than imagination. It’s imagination for building. It’s a matter of vision . . . it’s something in your heart God gives you a picture of that you want to see through.”

Kirkland’s vision is for the message of Jesus to restore and transform the hearts of the next generation. He sees a generation that needs Jesus, so he tells them about Jesus. He sees a generation without father figures, so he becomes a father figure. He sees a generation with unprecedented resources to learn a skill but no character, so he became a coach. He has an imagination for building. So he builds the kingdom of God into his own children and his athletes and students (treating them as if they were his own children) and their parents and magazine writers and fellow coaches and church members.

When asked, “What do you tell people you do?” Kevin throws his head to the side, shrugs just a bit, and look up just enough to suggest he himself had already asked someone else that question. He looks back with resignation. It’s the wrong question, after all.

He kept saying, “This is all just an means to an end.” He must have been talking about more than just coaching.

For Kevin, the question is not “What is the means?” but “Who is the end?”

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