Paul Helphinstine is originally from Plainfield, Indiana, and though he has lived in East Tennessee for nearly 25 years, and loves it by the way, he still considers himself a Hoosier. The same can’t be said for his wife Emily, originally from Kingsport, and his sons John and Isaac who, despite Paul’s best efforts, are born and bred Volunteers. Paul grew up as a member of Plainfield Christian Church, part of the Independent Christian Churches, and, upon the advice of his youth sponsor, decided to attend Milligan College in 1995. It was at Milligan that Paul and Emily met, fell in love, and got married. Paul majored in History and minored in English at Milligan, graduating in 1999 with secondary education certification. Upon graduation, he went to work as an eighth grade teacher at Science Hill High School. After teaching for a year, Paul returned to Milligan College as the Assistant to the President working throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Tennessee, and the Southeast in large-gift fundraising and institutional advancement. After three years of working at Milligan, Paul began sensing God’s call to ministry. He answered that call and began attending Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan College) in the spring of 2002. In the fall of that year Paul was hired as the Director of Student Ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City. Paul and Emily, and eventually John in 2004, loved their time at First Presbyterian, spending nearly seven years there. Isaac was born just one month before leaving First Presbyterian. It was while at First Presbyterian that Paul completed his Master of Divinity degree at Emmanuel and completed his ordination exams for the PC(USA). In March of 2009, Paul received a call from Harrison Christian Church, part of his home denomination, in Johnson City and served as the pastor there until May of 2013.During his time at Harrison, Paul realized a strong desire to return to the PC(USA), missing the connectional nature of the church. With the help of the Committee on Ministry of the Holston Presbytery, he officially transferred his ordination to the PC(USA) in 2013.In May of 2013, Paul received a call to serve as the pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Johnson City where he has served until accepting the call to be the Lead Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City.
Paul currently serves as the moderator of the Holston Presbytery Committee on Ministry. He also serves on the Campus Ministry Committee and the Nominations Committee for the Presbytery. He was the Holston Presbytery’s Teaching Elder Commissioner to the 223rd General Assembly in St. Louis in 2018, and currently serves on the General Assembly’s Per Capita Based System of Funding and Reviewing National Church Financial Sustainability Special Committee. Emily is the Literacy Coordinator for the Kingsport City Schools, and recently completed a second Master’s degree in school administration at the University of Tennessee as a Fellow in UT’s Leadership Academy. John is at Dobyns-Bennett High School where he is a member of the DB Marching Band and the DB Golf Team. Isaac is at Andrew Johnson Elementary School where he is a member of the Lighthouse Team and a member of the school’s Destination Imagination Team that placed third in the state of Tennessee last year.