John and Jessica Payton have been leading the ISU Navigators ministry since 2011. Their mission is to build and lead teams of college students and Navigator staff in order to make disciples of Jesus, lifetime laborers for His harvest fields, and future leaders of disciple-making teams and movements, and to send these laborers, leaders, and teams to generationally reproduce among the lost world.
John grew up in Hudson, IA and graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Northern Iowa in 2002. He grew up faithfully attending church with his family, but it during his freshman year at UNI that the Gospel took root and faith began to grow. He was invited by a 5th year senior to be in a freshman Bible study and for the first time in his life saw other guys that were wholeheartedly following Christ. John’s sophomore year, he became a student leader with the Navs at UNI and a full-time staff guy began to intentionally disciple him and continued during the rest of his time in college. John began to lead a Bible study and disciple guys in the same way that Nate invested in him. A desire began to grow in him to give his life to advancing the gospel.
Jess was raised in Western Nebraska and graduated with a degree in social work from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Rob and Machelle Clark (who were trained by the Shimkus’s and attended E-Free in Ames) were pioneering a ministry in Kearney Jess’s freshman year. Jess had a strong background in the Scriptures and believed the Gospel at an early age. However, the implications of the Gospel and the reality of her righteousness in Christ came to life in new ways during college. Jess was discipled by Machelle and at a Navigator training program caught a vision that God could use her to help other women become disciples of Jesus.
John and Jess served at UNI for a year and a half following graduation, and then pioneered a ministry at Northwest Missouri State at the age of 23. This was outside of the norm in Navigator training, but the Lord used their 8 years at that campus to develop them as leaders. They were asked to move to Ames to lead the ISU Navigator ministry in 2011. They love leading a collegiate ministry at Iowa State where the spiritual soil is fruitful. This gives great opportunity to raise up many laborers and send them to communities, cities, and to the nations. They would view it as their role to serve the Body of Christ as a major sender.
John and Jessica have three sons, Joseph, Jonathan and James.