It's one the main ingredients he feels is essential in building a ministry, and as pastor of the Emmanuel Church of the Living God in Ormond Beach, he doesn't think anyone in ministry could make an impact without it.
"You've got to love people, unconditionally," Ward said. "People that don't look like you, people that don't dress like you, people that don't eat like you, people that don't smell like you. You've got to love people — it has to be a ministry of inclusion on every level."
Ward has been leading the church for a little over a year now, and while he's been involved in church all of his life, being a pastor wasn't something he had envisioned for his future.
His mother was a pastor; he served in the church she and his father founded for 25 years. His late wife was also pastor; he served in the church they founded together for 40 years. But, when it came to Ward's career path, he chose something outside of the church: Human resources.
"I always being a servant in the background," Ward said. "I like making other people successful."
Ward worked as the director of HR for Halifax Hospital for 25 years before working for a company based out of Australia as their corporate director of HR, in charge of their U.S. operations. All the while, he continued his service in the church.
Honoring her wish
Ward and his late wife, Delores Simmons Ward, founded the Emmanuel Church of the Living God in 1989. The original location was on Flomish Street in Holly Hill, and the Wards were pastoring two churches at the time, since she had been leading his mother's church in Marion County after her death.
In 2004, they purchased the property at 54 S. Ridgewood Ave, Ormond Beach, having outgrown the last. His wife, who died in 2015, wanted him to become the church's pastor upon her death, but Ward chose not to.
A couple pastors came and went. Ward changed his mind and decided to honor his late wife's wish. He loved the community too much to simply walk away.
"I thought, 'If I leave, what's going to happen?'" he said. "If we close the ministry down, what's going to happen to the residents who have been depending on us for various aspects of ministry?"
"He is committed to the community and serving the community in any and every aspect he can. ... He's just an all around go-getter."
Deborah Hamm, founder of Cry Women Cry Ministries
The church helps feeds about 500 families a week through a community outreach food drive initiative and food pantry, thanks to its partnership with Cry Women Cry Ministries, Inc. Every other Thursday, with help from Second Harvest Food Bank and Feed America, they provide a hot meal to those in need, and Ward believes it has helped to eliminate some panhandling in the city.
"I don't want to see anybody hungry," Ward said. "We don't turn anyone away. We serve everyone."
How to best serve
Ward said he looks at ministry different. It has to go beyond meeting once a week. For him, that's not serving the community, nor helping to meet its needs.
"That's where my heart is," he said. "Not what the community can do for the church, but what can we do for this community, and how can we best serve this community?"
Being a denominational church, there are a lot of auxiliaries and there are a lot of different ministries. Ward can't do it all, but he feels he has been guided by God to focus on the areas where his expertise in human resources and love of people can truly add value to the community.
He set goals for himself. He wanted to create a worship experience with practical applications for parishioners, have a prayer clinic for encouragement, build a strong youth ministry, and focus and bolster education, through both the church's Treehouse Learning Center preschool and the education of its ministers.
Education is important to Ward, a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University.
"I often say, 'All we know is what we've been taught,'" Ward said. "'But what we have been taught is not all there is to know.' So in ministry, you have to be a student of learning."
'I love a challenge'
For a church to be successful, Ward said you have to build relationships.
"And relationships are built out of trust, commitment, and faithfulness to your charge," he said. "I cannot ask this community to do something that I'm not really willing to show them by example that I'm willing to do it first."
His parents were good role models. He grew up in a family of six, and he remembers always seeing them feed people and taking them in during their times of need. There was always a lot of people in his house growing up.
And he went on to do the same. While he and his wife had one biological daughter, they raised about 19 foster kids. He's served on so many boards — Ward estimates about 45 different ones —, he said he's "board" to death. Among them were boards for United Way, EasterSeals, Red Cross, Halifax Urban Ministry and the Stewart-Marchman Act treatment center.
Ward said he aims to lead by example.
"I'm going to create the change I want to see," he said. "If there are hindrances, roadblocks that say it can't be done, I'm going to create the path to do it. I love a challenge."