Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an amazing minister on our blog. Today we are pleased to share this interview with Cheryl Kimble. Cheryl IS what a minister looks like.
Cheryl, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey began a little later in life than most. I had been a public school teacher for over a decade when my pastor asked if I would be willing to serve as an interim for our music program, particularly working with the various children’s music programs. I agreed, thinking it would be a short-term position and admitting that I really didn’t know what I’d be getting into. As time passed I found myself working as a teacher to make a living, but pouring my heart into working at the church with the children.
One evening, sitting at a revival meeting, I had a feeling roll over me that I wasn’t supposed to be teaching; I was supposed to be serving in a church. In Oklahoma where I lived, in a Baptist church where I worshiped, that just wasn’t really a thing. Sure I could be a children’s “director” but minister was another thing. I began to talk with my pastor and look at schools, resigned my teaching job, and before I knew it I was serving as associate with emphasis in children’s and family life at First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
When Highland Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, contacted me asking if I’d be interested in being their associate pastor for children and families, I was hesitant. I agreed to visit, but couldn’t commit past that. The moment I walked into the sanctuary again this warmth rolled over me, and I knew this was where I was to serve. As all the arrangements were being made for me to assume the new position I made one thing clear to my new employers . . . I am not called to preach! I never felt it was my gift, and I shook like a leaf when I stood to talk in the pulpit. I could do children’s sermons, parent meetings, even teaching, just not preaching. It just wasn’t happening.
After a few years at Highland Park, the pastor wore me down, and I agreed to preach one sermon, but only one! It was well received but I was a basket case. A few months after that, the pastor announced he was leaving, and we entered into an interim time. Guess who needed to preach? Me. For the next many months, I preached at least once a month and sometimes two. Guess who ended up loving to preach? Me. Be careful what you tell your church . . . and God!
About three years later, we found ourselves once again in an interim time. The chair of our council came to me and ask if I would serve as acting pastor during the interim. Before long the pastor search committee determined that the church wanted me to become the pastor. In May of 2012, I became the pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church where I continue to serve today.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
I would have to say the greatest joys are times when I’m with people in transitional times: weddings, births, deaths, hospitals. Sitting one-on-one and sharing honest open feelings bring true joy. Although it sounds strange, and joy might not be the best word to use, but being with someone as they pass into the next life is a beautiful thing. It’s never easy to lose someone you love, but the peace that happens in that moment is not something you can explain, you just have to experience it. Sitting with someone the last moments of their lives, singing, praying, reading, holding their hands, whatever they need at the moment is a real privilege, and it’s one I don’t take lightly.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
I would have to say the greatest challenge has been being woman in ministry, especially twenty-five years ago in Oklahoma. I faced problems with my family, with people outside the church and inside the church, and with denominational people. I had been raised to believe that everyone was a minister and everyone could be called by God. What they failed to tell me was that they thought God only called women to volunteer positions. When I expressed my calling, many told me that I must be mistaken. Unless you’ve experience that in some area of your life, it may be hard to understand, but it hurts deeply when you feel as if you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and then someone tells you that it’s just not possible. Thankfully, I had many in my life who in turn just smiled at my news and say “we’ve been waiting for you to see that in you!”
Another challenge is finding the people to surround yourself with that will hold you up, support you, and encourage you when life is difficult. Life in ministry is hard! Being a woman in ministry is even harder. There are times of loss, hurt, frustration, sadness, exhaustion, rejection and even anger, and when those times hit, the people who can understand and help are priceless and necessary. I’ve been lucky enough to find other ministers who understand and who invest their time and energy in me, and I with them.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
There are a few! When I first felt called into ministry and I sat down with my pastor, Gene Garrison, he said, “Cheryl, God isn’t going to punish you for putting the time and energy into being a minister. You’ll know your calling as you go along, what you need to do now is jump in, find your passions, give of yourself and listen. In time clarity will come.” He was so right.
Several years later as I was thinking about leaving Oklahoma City and moving to Austin, I talked Mack Roark, who was then interim pastor. I said, “Mack how do I know if this is the right thing to do? I love my job here . . . it’s a big change. I’d be leaving my home, my family.” Mack said, “Cheryl, it’s time to spread your wings, and you’re not going to do that here. You need to take a step into the unknown and uncomfortable and learn to fly.” Man that was great advice!