Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview, Carol Cloer. Carol IS what a minister looks like!
Carol, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My father was a pastor, so I grew up in that environment. My mother also had a seminary degree and served in sort of a volunteer educational position in some of my Dad’s churches, while also directing the church kindergarten or teaching school so, I had plenty of role models growing up. My first position was at Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC, which I considered my home church at the time. My parents had been instrumental in starting that work and the church had helped pay my way through seminary. I committed to serve there for two years after graduation, in gratitude for their financial assistance. My position began as Youth Minister, then Music responsibilities were added sometime later.
Following the two years at Anderson Mill Road, I served in an interim capacity with a local mission while I interviewed for full-time positions. My first full-time post was in Johnsonville, SC as Music and Youth Director at the First Baptist Church. The friendships I developed there have been long term and they supported me through my early years of ministry in ways that I could not begin to express. I was there for 7 years and learned a great deal about flexibility, relationships and focusing on what is most important instead of what has the “loudest voice.”
My next position was at FBC Franklin, NC. I spent 9 years there as Minister of Music and Youth. During that time, my youth ministry had some of the best financial support of my career. I was blessed with an amazingly supportive group of youth parents! Some of them are still among my closest friends. My time there was a time of developing maturity in my ministry. I had a very active youth group that kept me on my toes, a church choir that was willing to stretch their boundaries and try new things, a community choir that gave me connections with other churches in the area, and a pastor who encouraged me to dream and trust my instincts.
At the end of my time at FBC Franklin, I returned to seminary to study Spiritual Formation. Around that time, I began working with a small, CBF congregation in Franklin. Centerpoint Community Fellowship was exactly that – a community of fellowship. As Associate Pastor, I led music, worked with the youth, selected Sunday School curriculum, and fulfilled other ministerial duties as needed. The fellowship was sweet, and I will always cherish that time. It was in that church that I was ordained. The atmosphere was very familial because the congregation was small, and it was perfect for that season of my life. It provided a supportive extended family during some very difficult times for my immediate family. The pastor was a long-term friend and mentor. He encouraged me to take a stronger leadership role and to stretch beyond my previous boundaries. Since I was part-time, the demands on my time during the 8 years at Centerpoint were relatively small, so it also allowed me time for study and room to grow.
Following those years, I found myself at a crossroads. I didn’t want to leave Franklin, my home of over 17 years, but I needed a change and a place of service. I received information about a position available in Sylva. I submitted a resume and a short time later I was contacted for an interview. In the following weeks things moved rather quickly and soon I was joining the staff of FBC Sylva as Youth Minister. Since then I have taken on additional responsibilities, my title has changed to Minister of Christian Education and I have come to feel at home at First Baptist Sylva. I am still a Youth Minister at heart and that is still part of my responsibilities, but I have come to enjoy the role of directing our afterschool ministry and our school day offering in this time of uncertainty. The opportunity to work with the college students on our 1st Explorers and Study Buddies staff has been very rewarding.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
As I have always been primarily a Youth Minister, my greatest joys have been in seeing those youth mature and find their own places of service. Whether it was as professional ministers or as lay leaders in their local congregations, it has been exciting for me to see them step up and take their places of service. Many have become Sunday school teachers, youth workers, deacons and even ministers and pastors. Having had a part in their early training and the development of their call to service or ministry is incredibly rewarding. I have even had opportunities to work with some of them years later, as colleagues, and I marveled at how they had grown and developed their own ministry style.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
There are always challenges, but the thing that has been hardest for me over the years is dealing with people who just don’t get it. Some years ago, I had an older church member complain to me because the youth had led a Sunday service and they had used some contemporary music. He didn’t care for the music and basically said that “those kids” should be seen and not heard. Since I was also the Minister of Music, he added that only traditional hymns should be allowed in worship. I very politely reminded him that those youth were the future of the church. Then I asked him, “if we don’t listen to them, nurture them, guide and encourage them, where will the church be in 20 years?” His answer floored me! He said, “What do I care, I’ll be dead by then!” He just didn’t get it. In his mind, his way was the only way and young people had no real worth beyond padding the rolls of the church. Thankfully, his attitude has been the exception, not the norm, but it made me keenly aware of the reality of those who “don’t get it.” They expect everyone to conform to their way of thinking, never considering the fact that they could be mistaken or that their way might not be the only way or even the best way. But I know I am in good company. Jesus faced them as well. In His day they were called Pharisees!
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
While I was serving at FBC Franklin, the pastor there had one hard and fast rule – all ministerial staff took one day off during the week in addition to Saturday. On that day you could not come to the office, you couldn’t do anything work related at all. If that day was taken up by something urgent, like a funeral, sudden illness of a church member, or in my case, a weeklong youth camp or retreat, he insisted that we take another day in its place. His reasons were simple: if we didn’t look to our own physical and spiritual wellbeing, our ability to minister to others would be compromised. I have tried to maintain that whenever possible since then. If I was serving in a part time situation, along with other part time jobs, I made time in my schedule wherever I could, and stuck to that schedule. The only way we can effectively minister to those in our care is to protect ourselves from ministry burnout. Be sure to take time for yourself. You need that time to regroup, reflect, refuel, process, and listen to what God is telling you and where He is leading you. There are times, of course, when “the ox is in the ditch” and personal time gets subverted, but that should be the exception, not the rule.
Also, a word of advice I would give from my own personal experience is simply this: in order for us to be effective minsters, we need to be ministered to. Having a spiritual advisor and confidant, someone who can listen to and help focus our thoughts and concerns, is so important. It may be someone in your life for only a season, or it could be a long-term friend. Over the years I have had several friends who have become that for me. I started that practice even before I had any idea what to call it or why it was necessary. In my early ministry, I had a dear friend and colleague who filled that role. As time has passed, others have also taken that place. At the few times when there was no one, I was keenly aware of the absence. We all need someone we can be completely real with. Someone with whom we don’t need to be “ministerial”. Be sure that you have that person in your life!
Carol Cloer is Minister of Christian Education at First Baptist Church Sylva, North Carolina.