Ka’thy Gore Chappell is leadership development coordinator with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She previously served as associate vice president for advancement and community life at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and associate pastor and college minister at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ka’thy, tell us about your early years.
I was raised in Opelika, Alabama, and grew up attending First Baptist Church. What a wealth of ministerial leaders who modeled loving all people! What a wealth of Sunday School, choir, youth camp, and missions volunteers who educated and nurtured me to discover what God wanted me to do and then encouraged me to do it! From the age of seven, my call to ministry was to work with young people and missions. My initial professional goal was to be the Alabama State GA director.
How has your family background influenced the way that you lead?
With a mom who made spiritual formation a priority and a dad who had a significant conversion experience, ours was a family of faith, one that embraced forgiveness, grace, love, hard work, and hardship. I will always say (and believe) that I had the best mother in the world.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is relational. While it took a long time for me to realize and recognize that being relational is significant, I know now that my leadership style is a gift from God. I truly love people and seem to relate well with them. Through relationships, I believe, we share faith, we serve, we commit, we are accountable.
Who shaped your leadership style or mentored you as a leader?
The women in my home church and my mom taught me how to work hard and that I should always do my best as leader. The creative, hard-working people (mostly women) who grew me up modeled leadership to me day in and day out.
What qualities have you observed in other leaders that you have incorporated into your own leadership style?
Qualities of leadership that I have embraced through observation include creativity, follow-through, delegating, including others in the work, affirming strengths, and allowing others (and myself) to learn from failure. For example, because of what was modeled for me, I work to make Bible studies relatable and experiential. When I work on a project, I invite others into the process. When I fail, I try to learn from the experience and from my mistakes while also protecting others from embarrassment. All of these examples are founded on a high level of relationship development, and throughout my ministry, I have watched people I admire incorporate these qualities into their leadership.
What are some key leadership lessons you have learned in recent years?
In recent years, I have learned about making successful transitions in my own workplace as my job responsibilities, salary, and office location have all changed. In the church today, ministers often come face to face with “change.” A hard reality of change is that it can result in anxiety and even depression. For ministers and leaders, learning to navigate transitions successfully is critically important as is embracing change as a strength-building opportunity that can be energizing and life-giving.
What have been some areas of growth for you as a leader?
I am currently in my second year of a Doctor of Ministry degree program at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas. The focus of my program is Creative Leadership with an Entrepreneurial Spirit. I hope to learn more about true inclusion, about reframing organizations, and about crafting a vision for the future—for my own personal growth and for enhancing my ministry. My desire is to be courageous enough, and hopefully, wise enough to launch professionally as an entrepreneur.
What words of wisdom would you share with recent seminary graduates as they move into new leadership roles?
Look for places of service where God is calling you to serve. One time I heard Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity, challenge college students who were job hunting to “Go stand in a line where no one else is standing.” Now, that is a bold challenge! At the same time, think, pray and yes, design what a position/ministry might look like for you. Today’s divinity students have the opportunity to design positions and to help churches, organizations, and judicatories think differently about ministry. Finally, be a life-long learner!