As a church planter, pastor, and ministry coach, Alton D. Findlaytor has drawn on his 30-year career with United Airlines to use professional skills and spiritual insight to help others meet their full potential. Now, as the new Northwestern region director for the Assemblies of God National Black Fellowship (NBF), he also is empowering and equipping African American leaders.
“Alton has that corporate and administrative background for things being efficient and practicing continuing improvement,” says Twila D. Jensen, senior vice president of finance at Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge. Jensen, who founded and leads a yearlong leadership development program for emerging executive leaders in Adult & Teen Challenge, has benefited from Findlaytor’s coaching.
“I talked to Alton about improving business processes,” she says. “It’s been very helpful.”
Findlaytor says he “grew up like Tom Sawyer” in a small town on the Caribbean island of Jamaica: fishing, swimming in rivers, and eating wild fruit. But moving to New York at age 13 triggered culture shock. For the first time, he experienced racial discrimination.
“Coming from Jamaica, my experience with racism was different from most Americans,” he says. “In Jamaica, the white people were nice. When I came to New York, we moved to a town where a cross had been burned in a Black couple’s lawn.” He learned not to go shopping at night in some areas.
When he went to Daytona Beach, Florida, for college, apartment managers would not rent to him and his friends because of their skin color.
“I was very hurt and angry,” he says. “It really created a barrier and a sense that I had a huge obstacle to face in society.” He sensed if others hated him because of his race, he might be seen as a second-class citizen, someone not as qualified for jobs as a white person.
He entered the U.S. Air Force and served as an aircraft mechanic in Northern California for six years. There, a white Christian supervisor led him to the Lord and invited him to his home Bible study.
“The Holy Spirit would show up and people would get baptized in the Holy Spirit,” Findlaytor recalls. “There were prophetic words. It was one of those Book of Acts situations.” He began attending a Pentecostal church in Vacaville.
United Airlines hired Findlaytor. He led Bible studies and saw people saved and filled with Holy Spirit on the job. For the last ten years of his career there, he served in process improvement — learning skills he has put into practice as the planter of Sanctuary Church Vacaville, an AG congregation. He also is now a high-level coach in the Bethel Leadership Network, where he coaches senior leaders, missionaries, and businesspeople in nonprofits all over the world.
“I love to train, coach, and consult,” Findlaytor says. “Some of it is about family, some about building teams in their churches, some about mission-vision strategy. I try to take them to the next level and really encourage and equip them. Coaching is about problem-solving, encouraging, prayer, and prophecy.”
Much of his knowledge comes from what he learned as a continuous process improvement specialist at United, assessing situations and coming up with solutions to increase productivity and efficiency in everything from managing inventory to building engines.
“I find that the tools and processes can work in any environment,” he says.
“I felt the need for some outside eyes to look at me personally, look at the ministry and see what I could do better,” Green says. “What I appreciate is that his corrective criticism comes across in a way I could easily embrace and employ.”
In addition to coaching, Findlaytor started Heart for All Nations (HFAN), which ministers in schools and orphanages in Africa, particularly in Sierra Leone. HFAN already has rehabilitated a school that serves five villages in remote areas of Sierra Leone, and recently dug a water well for 25 homes.
Equipping and sending Black missionaries is one of Findlaytor’s goals — as is bridging racial divides in the U.S. Two years ago, when racial unrest erupted in American cities, he asked the Lord how he could help bridge the gap and ease racial tensions. He volunteered to start an NBF chapter in the Pacific Northwest with the purpose of creating closer ties among Black ministers within the AG, as well as between races.
“I feel the number-one demonstrator of racial reconciliation should be the Church,” says Findlaytor, who is pursuing a Master of Leadership from SUM Bible College & Theological Seminary.