Dr. Swanzi Saunders, or Pastor Swanzi as she is affectionately called, is the Senior Pastor of Valencia Christian Center. At the heart of her ministry and calling is a passion and commitment for helping others grow toward wholeness and victorious living as they follow Jesus Christ. For more than three decades, she has touched many lives through church ministry, speaking, counseling, and education. Her message inspires and motivates hearers by effectively applying the principles of the Word of God to the issues of life. She holds the conviction that to live less than victoriously as a believer is to live beneath one’s privilege.
In addition to the pastoral role, Pastor Swanzi is a licensed professional clinical counselor who also has a deep desire for helping to enhance the quality of life for couples and families by providing the tools necessary for building relationships as well as the whole person – body, soul and spirit. Also, as a credentialed former educator, advisor, and school program administrator, she has worked in the field of adult education and has written for several publications, including curriculum for several parent education courses for the parents of children in the school district of greater Los Angeles.
Pastor Swanzi’s education includes a bachelors degree from LIFE Pacific College, a professional designation in journalism from UCLA, and masters and doctoral degrees in both theology and psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary and California Southern University. In addition to ministry, she was a loving caregiver for her late husband, Elder Jim Saunders, who passed away in 2020. Inspired by his illness, she conducted extensive research at California Southern University on the lived experiences of spousal caregivers caring for their partners with Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in New York, NY and raised in Los Angeles, CA, she is the first of eight sisters and one brother. She was the proud wife of Jim Saunders for 47 years before his passing, and together, they were the proud parents of four adult children, Tosca Saunders-Stepter, Donald Saunders, Ronald Saunders, and Marlon Saunders, all of whom are married with beautiful children of their own. Known as Nonni to her grandchildren, Pastor Swanzi has six grandsons (Donald II, RJ, Vaughn, Joshua, Mason, and Maxwell) and two granddaughters (Juliana and Sydney).