Southern Hills is led by 17 elders who shepherd the church with a Christ-like heart.  Read more about each of them below.  Feel free to send them an email.  


Bob Benham


Bob has been married for 41 years to Teanie, the love of his life.  His three children and their amazing spouses have given him seven beautiful granddaughters.  He serves as an elder because he wants this Church to be a place where faith is instilled in his granddaughters, where they can find joy in worship and service, and where they will someday want to raise their children.


Donnie Carroll


Donnie Carroll came to Southern Hills in 2003 serving on the ministerial staff. He is passionate about discipleship and spiritual growth as well as strengthening marriages and families. He believes God has called each of us to greatness as we immerse our lives in His great story. He has been married to Lisa for 36 years and blessed with 7 children; Geoff, his wife, Jamie, and child, Samuel; Amber Joy Brantly, her husband, Kent, and two children, Ruby & Stephen; Jonathan and his wife, Allison; Caryn Hooper, her husband, Carl, and child, Caleb; Keith and his wife, Morgan; Kevin and Anne.


Carley Dodd


Carley Dodd is a professor at ACU, husband of Ada for 47 years, and has 4 children and 7 grandchildren. Carley likes helping people and making a difference in the world, and serving through church is a key way to accomplish that goal. Purpose and direction is motivating which is why Romans 8:28 is inspiring: "In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."


Ed Emerson


Ed and his wife, Jana, have called Southern Hills "home" since 2007, after moving from Sweetwater. Their daughter, J'Lyn lives in Nashville, and their son, Eric, lives in Abilene with his wife, Katie, and the two best grandkids (Ed is admittedly biased). Ed is a CPA turned car wash owner, and Jana is a cardiac rehab nurse at Hendrick Medical Center. Although serving as an elder comes with tremendous responsibilities, Ed enjoys seeing God at work in His Kingdom and the lives of His disciples. Ed and his wife, Jana, are actively involved with an organization in Haiti focused on transforming the country for the Kingdom of God. After experiencing the shocking conditions of Haiti, they have determined to help share the joy of joining God in a Luke 4:18 way, encouraging others to join the mission in Haiti. Haiti is a reminder of the material blessings we enjoy, but more importantly, the immeasurable blessings of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.


Mark Hanner


Mark Hanner has been a member of Southern Hills since December of 1983 and a Shepherd since 2010.  He has a passion for youth, for missions, and enjoys encouraging and helping men to be Christ-centered leaders in their family.  He loves being at Southern Hills and seeing all of the blessings that God brings to this congregation.  The many families, college students, and international refugees that come our way have a great impact on his life.  He enjoys serving alongside so many that are making a difference in this community and the world.  He knows that he has a God that loves him and blesses him daily; this gives him the conviction to want to lead others to Christ.  He is married to Jana and they have three children;  Hunter and his wife Jennifer, Chase and his wife Macey, Erin and her husband Michael Easley.  They also have six grandchildren; Benton, Caleb and Clayton Hanner, Hudson and Sadie Hanner, and Hank Easley.


Howard Hathorn


Howard and Jacki Hathorn were married in the Southern Hills chapel in May 1981 and have been a part of the work for many years. Their three children were raised in the youth program at Southern Hills and each married spouses with families connected to Southern Hills. Jennifer is married to Hunter Hanner and has three children, Benton, Caleb, and Clayton. Michelle is married to Zach Percival and has three children, Clara, Ben, and Jack. Nathan is married to Katie (Morgan) and has one child, Harper and is expecting another little one. Howard has served as an elder since Jan 2010 and being an elder has been a great blessing. Howard has been able to be involved in the life of people in such a way that would not normally been possible. He loves being a part of a group of men and their wives who are striving to do the best job possible to serve Southern Hills, and make it a place where people see Jesus alive. It has been exciting to see others active and involved in so many ministries that they are passionate about. A core conviction would be to love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. These are the first and second greatest commandments. Howard wants to show Jesus’ love and compassion to others and treat them the way he would want to be treated. Southern Hills members have shown those virtues in the past, and he desires to play the love of Jesus forward to others at Southern Hills, Abilene, and other areas in the future.


Todd Hooper


Todd and his wife Carla were married in June 1979. They have been members of Southern Hills since 1993. Todd and Carla have two children, Carl and Anna. Carl and his wife, Caryn, live in Woodville, Texas, and have a son, Caleb. Anna and her husband, Matt Ray, live in McKinney, Texas, and have a daughter, Emma. As an elder, Todd is humbled and honored to pray with people. A favorite scripture is Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”


Shane Jennings


Shane Jennings and his wife, M.C., have been members of Southern Hills since 2002, along with their children, Morgan and Zach.  Shane’s desire, as a shepherd, is to see people through God’s eyes rather than his own.  God sees people as His children, worthy of His love and grace in spite of their many weaknesses.  Shane wants to see the Southern Hills family expand its reach and influence around the world, but especially across the neighborhoods of Abilene where there are so many people who long to feel the love and encouragement of the Lord’s church.  His hope is that the Southern Hills church will be a living example of Philippians 2:1-4, which says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”


Steven Leggett


Steven Leggett is executive director of Habitat for Humanity Abilene. He and his wife Pat have five children including two in-laws, and six grandchildren. Pat is a retired educator who loves being around her grandchildren and watching them grow spiritually and physically. They moved to Abilene 27 years ago and have felt blessed by the warm and friendly people, and the atmosphere of deep faith they found. Their children are involved in professions that serve others, including educators, a nurse practitioner and a technology service provider. His favorite scripture is Micah 6:8 because it provides such a simple and clear understanding of what God expects of us.


Dave Merrell


Dave first became associated with Southern Hills in 1966 and has been at Southern Hills continuously since 1975. He has been an elder since 1994. Now at least partly retired, he has been associated with ACU in various roles for fifty years. Dave was married to Martha for over 40 years before she passed in January of 2014. They raised four children, and their legacy now includes nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. At Southern Hills, Dave has taught classes, served on social activity committees and on the missions team. He remains committed to mission efforts after making a dozen short-term mission trips, including over a half dozed to various points in Central and South America. He has enjoyed participating in small groups, house church groups, shepherding groups and a very open discussion class. As a Christian, he has seen a constantly deepening understanding with broadening knowledge as a key element. He finds that music frequently speaks to situations, and finds continuing joys in working with the outstanding ministry staff and the conscientious members of the congregation.


Danny Minton


Danny Minton and his wife, Kathy, have been members of Southern Hills since January, 1988 and he has served as a shepherd since 2000. He desires to see the heart of the church be like the heart of Jesus, showing compassion and love toward everyone, being a people of God, a people of a different spirit than the world, who live for the Savior and not themselves. His favorite Psalm in Psalm 15, but his favorite N.T. scriptures are first, Mark 10:45, “For the son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.” The second is an action of Jesus when he met the leper in Matthew 8:3, “And he reached out his hand and touched the man.” They have raised two children, Scottie (who went to be with the Lord in 2014) and Chris who lives in Austin with his wife, Daniella and their two granddaughters, Liliana and Vivian.


Kent Rideout


Kent Rideout has been a member of Southern Hills since 1989 and an Elder since 2015.  He has a heart for missions and believes God calls us to grow in trust, in faith, and in love for each other and for the lost. He believes great things happen when we reach beyond our comfort zone and trust God for the rest.  He is married to Merri Lynn and they have two children – Craig and Kara and 5 grandchildren, Adilyn, Audrey, Calin, Branson and Brooklyn.


Johnny Rodriguez


Johnny has been married to Kay for 32 years and they have two grown daughters, Dara and Erika. The family has been a part of Southern Hills since 1986. JR has been reassigned (retired) since December 2014, while Kay is a part-time receptionist at the Christian Service Center. He has had elder mentors throughout his christian life. Men at Pioneer Park in Lubbock, in Arvada Colorado, Sunset in Lubbock and, of course, Southern Hills have influenced his spiritual growth. It was their love of God that inspired him to earnestly serve others and be prepared, should he be asked to serve as an elder. JR sees family as an important part of his life. Continuing to help his family get to heaven has helped him in his own faith journey. Aiding the family at Southern Hills with this goal will now be foremost in his service to the Lord.


Guy Saylor


Guy Saylor has been a member of Southern Hills since 1989 and a shepherd since 2015. He is excited to be part of God's work at Southern Hills. He believes the best way to show God's love to the world is through showing our love for others. He is married to Robin and they have a daughter, Kati.


Mark Viertel


Mark Viertel has been a member of Southern Hills since August 1994 and a shepherd since 2005.  Mark has a heart for the health of marriages and for men's roles as strong Christian leaders, as husbands, and as fathers. He desires that we continue to understand God's grace and that we express our faith through our love for one another.  Mark and his wife, Karen, have been married for 33 years and have two children, Tanner and his wife, Blair; and Kenli and her husband, Tyler.  They have two grandsons, Jackson and Lucas.


Mike Watson


Mike and his wife Martha have been at SH since 1974 and have been involved in many aspects of SH life through the years.  They raised both daughters here and are now a part of the Starting Point team of folks that welcome new folks to SH.  This place is home!