Bob Barbee knows cars. He began working at a car dealer in 1969 in the Sacramento area and ten years later owned his first dealership. He moved to Denver in 1988 and bought a Ford dealership, which he still owns. Along the way he’s owned dealerships in ten locations and had as many car franchises.
Bob became a Christian 1989 at the age of 46. A year later he met Dr. Kent Hutcheson who invited him to men’s Bible study. For the next 13 years the group was a source of spiritual growth and life-changing fellowship with likeminded men.
Bob felt God directing him to Phoenix. For five years he searched for what he had left behind in Colorado by way of ministry and fellowship. He found it in 2006 when Terry Hamlin invited Bob to a Pinnacle Forum. When that group changed meeting times Bob transitioned to another Forum in 2008 that he still attends.
“There are 14-20 guys who study the Word of God together weekly and who are involved in each other’s lives,” Bob says. ‘We can talk about anything and we support each other through everything life throws at us.”
But like all Forum groups, study and support are just part of the equation. They also exist to change the culture of their cities and the country at large. “My Forum group inspires me to do something with my faith outside of church and the Christian community,” Bob says.
In Bob’s case, this involves a nonprofit ministry he started in 2007 called Elevate Phoenix. “Elevate Phoenix works with urban public schools and communities to strengthen character, empower knowledge and elevate relationships,” Bob explains. “It provides in-school teaching, after-school mentoring/tutoring and career instruction. We emphasize character, life skills and peer leadership development.”
The ministry took years of work to get off the ground. “I felt like Moses when I started because I didn’t know anyone in Phoenix or have connections to people and cash,” Bob says. “I asked God why he brought me here when I had such a great ministry in Denver and I got the sense that he wanted me to start something new.”
Over the next three years Bob diligently pulled together the people and resources for a 2009 launch. “We had our first classes in January of 2009 at Caesar Chavez High School,” he recalls. “Back then we had two staff and 28 kids. Today we have ten staff in five schools. We work with 1,500 kids in classrooms and 4,500 kids in total. Our program has 98% 4 year graduation and 90% postsecondary entry rates for the kids involved compared to a national graduation rate for urban youth of 53%.
As a committed believer Bob is also encouraged by the program’s spiritual fruit. “We’ve seen more than 300 kids become Christians. That’s thrilling to me.”
Bob plans to phase out of the car business over the next few years and put more time into Elevate Phoenix. He also continues to work with other ministries and boards, including serving as board chair of Vision Trust International.
“If I could tell your readers one thing about Pinnacle Forum,” Bob concludes, “it would be that men need to be with other men who share the same values. We need a safe place to go where we talk about our victories, losses, struggles and successes with our peers. This kind of fellowship is lacking in our society and we desperately need what’s available in a Forum group.”