The Bull. It’s what we called our youth pastor. Officially, Bill Bullard, but to all of the youth, simply Bull. He passed yesterday, and with his death an era ended. I couldn’t tell you how many young people were influenced by him. There is no way to track it. It was back before influencers had followers, likes, and shares. All I know is that we all liked him, followed him, and shared him.
To describe The Bull is a bit like trying to catch the wind and put it in a box. Yet, there are some words I think we would all use; fun, gregarious, kind, energetic, exuberant, caring, jovial, compassionate, hilarious, and loving. He was a big kid his whole life. Who better to relate to teenagers? He got us. Understood the pitfalls of youth and he filled them in with his bigger-than-life presence.
He also kept us busy. After church fellowship included The Varsity, putt-putt, bowling, the original Mellow Mushroom…pretty much anywhere we could just hang out together. He planned retreats, including some pretty awesome speakers and lots of activities. Foxes and Hounds at In-the Oaks comes to mind. That house, built at around the same time as the Biltmore House, was full of secret passages, back doors, balconies, cellars and an indoor swimming pool. A chaperone’s nightmare.
Most youth pastors would steer clear of such a place, but the Bull took us there, year after year. I had some of my most meaningful moments with God in that place, but also some of the most fun of my childhood. Climbing trees, devising plans to escape our room in the middle of the night (the sound of shattering coke bottles comes to mind), playing frisbee on the lawn, singing Victory in Jesus and I’ll Fly Away at the top of our lungs…led of course by Bull banging on the piano with gusto.
The Bull was good at mixing spiritual things with fun. I think one of my main take-aways from him was that following Jesus is fun. That may not sound like a huge deal, but it was profound. To this day, if I see those who profess Christ acting holier-than-thou, I choose a different place. Fun and God. They go together. Just because you love God, doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy or serious all the time. Bull showed us that.
Because Bill was authentic and real and a bit unconventional, kids responded to him. He wasn’t about a spiritual check list. He built a community. We had at least 8 high schools represented at our church. Rivalries. Tribes. Divisions. Or what should have been. Instead of focusing on those differences, we all did everything together. Honestly, I spent more time at the church activities Bull planned than I did at my school events. We didn’t have too much of the high school drama, typical of those ages, in our group. We all treasured each other. We cared, no matter what school we attended. We were a family. We genuinely loved one another no matter what. He taught us how to do that by showing us. How many of us now show concern and care for others because of what we learned from him?
He had a way of bringing kids together despite differing backgrounds. He welcomed everyone. He demonstrated what a Godly man does, with his actions more than his words. He was a father to the fatherless and we had quite a few fatherless among us, for one reason or another. He was a cheerleader to those without one. He believed in us all. He was an encourager of all. He was a bit crazy with his distinctive laugh, or I should say bellow. Just hearing it from a distance made us smile. (I can hear it in my head as I write and I am chuckling.) He didn’t even have to be talking to you, if you could hear him laughing anywhere in the building, it lifted your heart and put a pep in your step.
There will be thousands of stories. Over 20 years in youth ministry spans several generations of kids. And I am not taking into account any of his many years as activities director with the seniors at Kings Bridge. I am sure there are just as many stories from his post-youth pastor years. He ministered to the young and the young-at-heart, alike. Bull wore many hats over his life. Church bus driver was one of the main ones. It came with the territory and he embraced it as if being on the bus was ministry, too. It was, to him. He took everyone everywhere. Loaded us all up and off we went. To the beach or the mountains. To camp or retreats. To food or fun. He was the captain and we were his crew.
Camp Waco, affectionately called camp Wacko, was an annual event where shaving cream battles, and canoe races were part of the planned activities. Lock-ins in the rec room, the one with the Atlanta skyline painted on the wall back when the Hyatt Regency spaceship was the highest building in the city, was where some of my greatest spiritual growth occurred. We had game time before and after the teaching. Pool, ping-pong, and prayer. He pulled off quite the balancing act. He taught us how to love people by loving us. He taught us how to laugh with people, not at them. He taught us how to care about people by caring for us.
I must admit, these memories have made me a bit nostalgic today. But they have also shown me how much of a role one person can have on the hearts of others. God knew the kind of person we all needed in our lives as kids. He provided Bill Bullard, who built a community of compassion and love in his own way. A community many of us are still attached to. We keep in touch, all these years later, because we love each other, even now.
Bull threw himself into the pond of life and from him spread ripples for decades. We are his ripples. Only God knows the multiplication effect of this one man. How, what he did for all of us has shaped us and molded us, into who we are today. And how, who we are today has touched those within our own circles of influence. With his death, he has passed the baton to us. We are now the rocks. So throw yourself into the pond and watch the ripples. And don’t forget to laugh.
Photo credit: All pictures were copied from his Facebook page.
20 thoughts on “The Bull”
This is beautiful. You made me cry and laugh at the same time. Brought back lots of fun memories. He and Mom had a great time working together at KingsBridge. I hope that we are all able to celebrate the life of this amazing man together. Thanks again for writing this.
Thank you, Michelle. This is a masterpiece of writing about a masterpiece of a person. Parents, also, felt the far-reaching effects of this kind man, on our kids. Mine were always happily influenced by him. They enjoyed every get-together and going to his home with his wife, Eugenia. My Bev has referred to her as “Genie.” — GOD SPEED, BILL BULLARD, – and to his devoted caregiver: WELL DONE, GENIE. – and to God: THANK YOU.
And I can hear he and Bev cackling. Boy what a reunion that is!
Didn’t know him but what a beautiful tribute you have written to him. I think of youth pastors I had and the influence they had on my life. How wonderful and blessed to have had such a great one influence so many young folks!
Really great and perfect… I gave Bill your book for Christmas and he read thru it twice. Excellent tribute
I know you will miss him dearly, Paul! Thanks for always sticking nearby and loving him well.
My heart is happy that my Daddy was so loved…..thank you Michelle…..the perfect tribute for the man, the myth, the legend…..he so enjoyed reading your book; he left it next to his chair; once I can sit and be still I would like to read it myself. Thank you for loving my Daddy.
Everybody loved your daddy! So sorry for your loss. I know there will be a gaping hole.
And he loved every single one of his “kids”…he would often be so surprised to hear from one of or all of you around his birthday…I hope he now knows how loved he was from the multitude of people he served for so many years.
This is the sweetest , most heartfelt story I have ever read. He was truly loved by many.
He will be missed. Heaven just got the best angel ever!!! Prayers for Eugenia and Becky and all the loved Bill.❤️
Thanks Michelle! Lots of memories remembered. Bill was one in a million, he was and still is loved by all who knew him. Love to Eugenia and Becky, and to all who knew him. Dee
Cows may come and cows may go, but The Bull and his legacy will last forever. I hope you can now see all the lives you touched, led to the Lord and improved as a husband, father, minister, man, and friend to so many. You helped me as I was starting out on my journey in ministry by giving me a more personal training experience than school or any other individual. And working with you was more fun than anyone else in my career! I can’t wait to meet you again in Glory, hug each other, sit down and swap stories, and celebrate with you. .. just to hear that “Waah, haah, haah!” laugh again echoing down the halls! Love you, Bill!
This was beautiful. A wonderful tribute. My dad and Bill were very close at one time…all thru my youth and my sisters too. They grew apart but still considered themselves friends. Dad doesn’t remember much these days but last night I asked him if he remembered Bill. He said YES of course I do why would you ask me that? I said Bill was sick and he immediately said that he wanted to go see him.
That to me is a tribute on what an impact Bill had on everyone. For dad to remember…and even remember where he lived (almost) when he doesn’t remember most things now a days? That is huge to me.
I didn’t see Bill much after I grew up but I will always hold him dear in my heart with the laughter and memories we all shared.
Love you Bill. Rest in peace till we all meet to laugh and love again!!
I am sorry to hear about your dad. Our mom doesn’t remember us, or most things so I KNOW how big it is for your dad to remember and be able to say so! Those were good times and the memories will live on.
Oh sha I’m so very sorry to hear about your mom….that is the heartbreaking…praying for her and for strength for you, Melinda, your father and your brother.
This was beautiful Michelle. Thank you for your memoir of Bill, but also for your insight and reflection on how one person can create such a ripple in our world. In the Oaks is a core memory, as you said a chaperone’s nightmare but wow what an incredible place for a kid to feel close to God. Thanks again. Tim
Beautiful tribute Michelle. You captured that time and who he was/is perfectly.
There aren’t alot of truly good people in this world but he was definitely one. His legacy will live on in all of us. Our lives were all enriched by having him in them.
The picture of him and Bev was especially fitting. Both will remain with us forever.
And I can hear his laugh too.
Michelle, you may not remember me, but this is Mac McKinnon. I am sorry to hear of Bill Bullard’s passing. He Ministered not only to me, but to my Dad and Mom, Luke and Jean McKinnon, as well. May God Shower Eugenia, Becky, and all like yourself who knew and loved Bill in our time of mourning and bereavement and beyond. God Bless and Keep You All.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Thank you Michelle! A great tribute to Bill, but just like a photograph cannot capture the great panorama, you had to be in Bill’s presence to experience this “gift of God”! Bill (he was not Bull yet) came into my life in 1961 when I was 13. He was the “volunteer “ youth director, as he was working at the Decatur YMCA then. Your dad was my SS teacher. Another guy who put fun in God! I loved any opportunity to be around Bill and even came to Sunday evening Y events to help after college. Bill became that big brother who I could confide in and from whom I could seek advice. He was the one who told me that Cindy Bennett had broken up with her boyfriend one week and whom I called for a date the next week. Now married for 43 years! So once again he greatly blessed me! He and my grandmother still are my greatest Christian role models! And God said “well done my good and faithful servant”!
This is so sweet! Thanks for sharing!