Interview with Jess Bousa: Homeless to Harvard – From Addict to Pastor to CEO

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Jess Bousa Interview with Josh Jurkovich

Join the Conversation with Josh Jurkovich and Jess Bousa

In this episode of Business of Ministry Podcast…

Jess Bousa shares his remarkable journey of transformation from teenage drug addict living on the streets of Newark, New Jersey to pastor of a growing ministry with five locations, CEO of a financial service company and marketing consultant.

In his interview with Jess Bousa, Josh Jurkovich learns how Bousa treated his ministry like a business and how he took lessons from his ministry into the marketplace.

Hell on Earth

When Bousa was sixteen, he was a promising BMX rider. Unfortunately, he didn’t feel fulfilled by the successes he was experiencing in the sport.

This dissatisfaction led him towards drugs, alcohol, homelessness, and petty crime. He overdosed, attempted suicide and was arrested for selling drugs multiple times. He even spent time living on the streets in Newark, as a crack-addicted teen without purpose.

Journey towards God

After his final arrest on February 10th, 2002, Bousa’s father negotiated that he be released from a four-year jail sentence into a Christian rehab program in Syracuse, NY, called Teen Challenge.  The program was demanding and at first, Bousa rebelled, since he “wasn’t looking for God.”  

But after struggling to graduate from the first part of the course, Bousa found his direction in its second phase, held in the North East and nicknamed “God’s Mountain.”  

Suddenly, he felt reinvigorated and determined to find his calling.

To the Ministry and Beyond

After Teen Challenge, Bousa went into overdrive, studying at Valley Forge and Harvard Divinity School, where he took his master’s degree and learning four biblical languages including Greek and Aramaic.

Bousa decided his purpose was to minister to those far from God. Learning from his own experiences, he set up his first church in a side street. The small venture quickly grew; Bousa went from one unassuming church to ministry in five locations, multiple daily services, and up to 200 baptisms held annually.

Bousa goes on to discuss his early adoption of social media and digital technology before describing his 2018 transition into the financial sector, where he found his transformative experiences and skill-base surprisingly applicable.

In this episode:

  • [01:05] Bousa talks about his troubled teens and journey towards God
  • [03:24] How Teen Challenge helped Bousa discover his calling
  • [05:24] Bousa deepened his commitment to the ministry through study
  • [06:27] Josh shares some of his own story, which has echoes of Bousa’s journey
  • [15:00] Bousa talks about founding his first church and rapid expansion
  • [25:19] The importance of digital marketing to bring the word to a bigger audience
  • [27:03] Pivoting towards the marketplace with lessons from the ministry
  • [29:36] What you need to get started: other like-minded supporters
  • [33:00] The ‘life sentence’ we all receive and how to earn it
  • [34:55] How to take lessons from the church into sales and marketing
  • [35:56] Jesus as the ultimate marketer

Enjoy today’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

People and Books Mentioned in this Episode

About the Guest

Having been a teen addict and petty criminal, Pastor Jess Bousa graduated from a transformative Christian rehab program to study theology and biblical languages at Valley Forge, Harvard Divinity School, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  He founded his own ministry in Maryland, which soon swelled to five locations and over 1000 congregants.  In 2017 Bousa took his passion for entrepreneurship and social media savvy and founded full-service marketing agency Exponential Media.  Bousa then started a financial services company, JB Financial Group, where he consults as a financial advisor.

Guest’s Links:


Further Resources

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Josh Jurkovich

Josh Jurkovich

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