Jim and Susan Wood

Jim Wood, with his wife, Susan, is transferring leadership responsibility at Wears Valley Ranch to Clayton Wood in 2021.

WEARS VALLEY — The Board of Wears Valley Ranch recently announced the appointment of Clayton S. Wood as the ministry’s new president and CEO beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

Jim Wood will remain as the Ranch’s Founder, continuing his ministry of teaching and preaching at the Ranch, on radio and elsewhere. Jim Wood will continue to be available for consultation and will continue to minister to the Ranch’s donors and friends.

The process of succession planning was prayerfully begun several years ago, according to a statement from the ministry. Earlier this year, Jim Wood suggested to the board that Clayton Wood would be his first choice of successor and encouraged Clayton Wood and other board members to pray. Since then, the board has prayerfully discussed the details and dynamics and been pleased as the Lord has clearly opened the way for this transition to provide strong leadership continuity.

At the October Board meeting this year the vote was both unanimous and enthusiastic. Clayton has accepted the Board’s proposal and taken steps to prepare his existing ministry in Knoxville for his new dual role with both organizations. His board in Knoxville also voted unanimously to support this important step.

Clayton was only 11 years old when his parents, Jim and Susan, uprooted the family from suburban Atlanta and moved to Wears Valley to establish the Ranch. He lived in Christopher House, the first boys house, for seven months while his mom and dad were house parents. He graduated from Saint Andrew’s School at Wears Valley Ranch and enrolled at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville at age 15. He graduated with a J.D. degree from Washington and Lee Law School at age 22. He has practiced law with the American Center for Law and Justice, was a writer and producer for television, worked in corporate law and worked in international missions focused on orphan care.

For the last eight years he has been the executive director of Thrive Lonsdale. That ministry has flourished under his leadership. They have gone from serving 42 children three days per week with four full time and five part time staff for 300 hours per year, to serving 240 children five days a week in three locations, with 22 full time and 54 part time for over 700 program hours a year. Following the example of Wears Valley Ranch he led Thrive to adopt a policy of no government funds and no debt, relying on God to provide.

The budget has grown from $200,000 with $70,000 in debt to $2.3 million with no debt and over $650,000 in assets. More than 100 college students are involved in the campus ministry and more than 400 volunteers are involved annually. He is also one of the founding elders of Lonsdale Community Church which has grown from a few families to a healthy multiethnic congregation of more than 25 families.

Clayton has built a strong team at Thrive in Knoxville and looks forward to leading the tremendous team his dad and mom have developed at the Ranch. Brian McDonnell will remain as COO, Alex Papa as residential program director, and Gwen Garner as principal. During this crucial time, the ministry leadership said they ask for fervent prayer and continued strong financial support.