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Employee Spotlight: Rev. Jim Zippay

Recent News | January 9, 2024

Back in 1961, National Church Residences was founded on a faith-based mission to serve all seniors, regardless of their beliefs or personal identity. Our residents deserve to thrive in a safe and caring community with support from people like Corporate Chaplain Rev. Jim Zippay.

Zippay joined National Church Residences as its first corporate chaplain back in 2017. The initial goal was simple – to grow the organization’s chaplaincy program so that it better supports the seniors living in both independent living and affordable housing communities. Fortunately, for everyone involved, Zippay has been serving others and connecting with people long before he joined National Church Residences.

From the Marines to Ministry

While Zippay currently calls the Columbus area home, his story started a few hours Northeast. One of nine children, Zippay grew up in the East Side Suburbs of Cleveland before venturing down to the Ohio capital to study at Ohio State University. He also enlisted in the Marine Corp in ’77 with the plan to become an officer in the future.

While the call to the Marines was strong, he felt an even stronger call to join the ministry. Zippay finished his four years in the Marines and started the transition into pastoring. 1983 was an especially momentous year, as Zippay both got married and started campus ministry at Ohio State. A consummate learner, Zippay continued his studies while in campus ministry, earning a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity International University and a Masters of Divinity from Winebrenner Theological Seminary.

During his 40 years as a minister, Zippay has pastored at several churches, most notably spending 27 years as the founding pastor for Heritage Christian Church in Westerville, Ohio. He also worked as a chaplain at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, an intensive job that could be very difficult, but gave him the chance to connect with people outside of his faith group.

“When you pastor, you’re basically communicating to people who already think like you and want that developed,” Zippay explained. “In chaplaincy, you’re talking to people who have all kinds of thoughts or no thoughts on the subject. Your job is to make a connection with them. That’s a lot more exciting to me. I like meeting people who are different than me.”

Zippay also describes himself as more of an entrepreneurial personality. While pastoring or serving at Nationwide Children’s Hospital were rewarding in their own ways, Zippay had an urge to develop and grow something to help connect with more people. Fortunately, National Church Residences needed someone with that type of calling.

Growing Chaplaincy Services Across the Country

In April 2017, Zippay joined National Church Residences as its first corporate chaplain. While National Church Residences had offered chaplaincy in the past, there was an opportunity to grow the program overall and provide these services to seniors living in affordable housing communities.

“Coming to work for an organization where we were going to try and do something that hadn’t been done before was intriguing to me,” Zippay said.” It was nice because I could come in and develop the program. There was nothing that I had to ‘fit’ into for the position.”

Since 2017, Zippay has overseen the hiring, coaching, and expansion of his chaplaincy team. He also oversaw the development of a volunteer chaplaincy program. These days, National Church Residences has 22 staff chaplains and more than 230 volunteer chaplains to connect with seniors at numerous senior living and affordable housing communities across the country. 

Changing the Conversation on Aging

In addition to his entrepreneurial spirit, part of Zippay’s success with the chaplaincy program comes from his desire to connect with people and make relationships. Like many others at National Church Residences, he particularly enjoys working with seniors. 

“Seniors are fun to me. They’ve lived full lives. Once you get them past their aches and pains and they start telling you what they’ve done in life, it’s amazing to hear what they’ve gone through.”

One of the major goals that Zippay and his team work toward is to create a positive attitude about aging. As seniors get older, they may feel isolated or that there isn’t anything left to accomplish or enjoy. Zippay wants to change the mindset that getting older can’t be exciting or enjoyable. 

“I want people to utilize this season of life to experience new things they haven’t before as opposed to circling the wagons and waiting for the end, and that’s what happens so often,” Zippay says. “It’s fun when you see residents find that spark. Whether or not they recognize Jesus in the process, that doesn’t matter. I enjoy seeing seniors enjoy life. If you got it, live it.”

Zippay cites his 94-year-old mother as a testament to the golden years. According to him, she’s still as sharp as ever, even with nine children, 27 grandchildren, and 29 great grandchildren (not to mention the nieces and nephews). Meanwhile, Zippay is excited to practice what he preaches at a youthful 65 years old, whether he’s spending time with his wife and children, trying to improve his golf game, or helping seniors enjoy their latest journey. 

Looking for a job where you can make an impact in your community? View our senior living job opportunities and start your next career.

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National Church Residences does not discriminate against individuals based on race, color, disability, familial status, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, payment source, or any other class protected by applicable law, whether in employment or its activities, programs, or services. National Church Residences also does not discriminate based on age, except as required by government entitlements or permitted by applicable law for seniors.