Houseparent Spotlight – Tinkler Family

The role of houseparents comes with unique stressors and rewards. This no doubt influences the length of time a couple will devote to this ministry role. Nationwide, the average length of service for houseparents ranges from just six to nine months. Since 1957, Cookson Hills has been blessed by many couples who have given over ten years of service as houseparents.

Mike & Debbie being honored for 10 years of service at our 2019 Thanksgiving Dinner.

Most recently, we honored Mike & Debbie Tinkler’s ten years of service at the 2019 Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by the First Christian Church in Grove, OK. Driven by the desire to invest in the lives of families, the Tinklers joined our ministry team in March 2009. They have touched the lives of countless students and families through their role as houseparents. This service spotlight will give you a glimpse of how the Tinkler’s ten years of service has impacted the Kingdom of God!


The Tinklers desire to show the kids in their home that there is a better way in Christ, that there is hope, and that a difficult past does not have to define or control them. They love coming alongside children and families and celebrating the positive changes made as they achieve their goals. As Debbie reflected on her time as a housemom, she stated, “I refer to myself as a ‘placed adult.’ I am trying to learn what He still needs to teach me as I model Christ and teach our ‘placed students’ in our home.”

The Tinkler Family in 2013!

Mike and Debbie view the kids who live with them as a Tinkler and part of their extended family. They strive to have clear and consistent boundaries with the goal that the children will learn to manage themselves from within rather than externally by others. 


The Tinkler family motto is Work Hard; Play Hard – and this family enjoys both. At any given time, the Tinkler family might be mowing and weed-eating yards for others on the Cookson Hills campus. One might find them playing card games, challenging each other to a round of pool, building a campfire, or hosting guests for dinner in their home. Whatever it is, Mike and Debbie involve the whole family and teach valuable life lessons to all the kids in their care.   

Here’s what some of their past and current kids had to say about Mom and Dad Tinkler:

They help me when I have issues. They always help me think positive and help me push myself.

Hannah, Class of 2024

The Tinklers have been very comforting to me these last few months since my mom has passed [away] and it has been a hard time for me. I love how caring and very loving [they are] even when we don’t expect them to be that way. When I heard about my mom passing, all I did was push them away. BUT – they never gave up on trying to be there for me, and I love that about them.”

Emily, Class of 2024 
Tinkler family at the 2018 Cowboy Jamboree!

Recently, I found out my dad no longer wants to be a part of my life. And while it hurts a lot, it would hurt a lot more if I didn’t have the houseparents and adults in my life that I do. Mr. Tinkler is a great role model. He is hard-working, kind, loving, and no matter what I do, he’s always there for me. Same goes for Mrs. Tinkler. She has shown me that I don’t need anyone but God in my life.

Adelynn, Class of 2019

One of the most influential people I have had on campus is Mr. Tinkler, another housedad here at Cookson Hills. I have gotten some serious, applicable wisdom from him.

Lucas, Class of 2020

Debbie once wrote, “When you are working for God, you go where He says to go and when He says to go. He will give you the heart’s desire for His next assignment and work out the details.” We are so thankful God “assigned” the Tinklers to Cookson Hills over 10 years ago.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Rachel Wages, Executive Assistant, is from Montana and loves sharing the story of Cookson Hills, playing board games with her family, and finding fun new coffee shops.