Kasey Jones serves as the associate coordinator of strategic operations and outreach of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Decatur, Georgia. She previously was senior pastor for ten years of National Baptist Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., Kasey was the historic congregation’s first female and first African-American senior pastor.

Kasey, tell us about your early years.

As I reflect on my early years, there are several experiences that created a keen awareness of systemic inequity. I’m clear that I didn’t have the vocabulary to name those experiences, but I witnessed firsthand how there are systems in place that create advantages for some and left others out. My awareness began as a child, while sitting on the living room floor of our home as my parents and their friends discussed plans to fight for sidewalks in our neighborhood so that their kids could walk to school safely. Or, when they discussed the need to fight for new books for the elementary school that was across the street from our home. At the time, the school’s books came from a predominately white elementary school in the hills (yes, they were secondhand books)!  I not only knew this because of the discussions in our family home, but because I was bused as a child to that predominately white school in the hills. That school’s resources were far superior to those of the school that I could see from my front door. Although my parents arranged for me to be bused, they continued to fight for the children in our neighborhood. The testimony of my parents’ lives instilled in me a spirit not only to fight for justice but also to create opportunity for others to thrive.

How has your family background influenced the way that you lead?

As I lead, I am drawn to those who are overlooked, and I search to create avenues for inclusion. I’ve been blessed with opportunities to serve and lead in places that can only be explained by the goodness of God. I’m very grateful for the doors that have opened for me but more excited to be used to create space for others.

How would you describe your leadership style?

This is a hard question for me to answer at this time. In the last year, I’ve made a change from pastoring to serving in a denomin-network, and I’m learning and growing in new, unexpected ways.

What words of wisdom would you share with recent seminary graduates as they move into new leadership roles?

The words of wisdom that I would share with recent seminary graduates is what I learned as a young organizer. Patience, planning, and faithfulness are essential to make long-lasting change. Listening and learning the stories of those you serve is a worthy investment that will yield great dividends.