Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview, Kim Bodenhamer. Kim IS what a minister looks like!
Kim, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey has brought me to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor where I am an Assistant Professor Christian Studies. I consider teaching and ministering to students a fulfillment of my calling to serve the church. When I was in high school, I felt a call to ministry, so I headed to college as an undecided major with the idea that I would explore my interests and see what the next step of ministry looked like, either in full time service to the church or through lay ministry. My first semester, I took the required “Old Testament Survey” class with Dr. Susan Piggott and it captivated me. I naively thought I knew everything I needed to know about the Bible (I did do Bible Drill, after all), and yet I left that class with so many new questions. I continued to take Biblical Studies classes and found the classroom to be a welcoming space where I was free to ask questions and explore my faith, and also found that using my mind was nourishing to my spiritual life.
Alongside my new love for academic study of the Bible, I volunteered in my college ministry as a worship leader, worked with children at after school programs, and worked in the Missions Department of a church organizing mission camps and writing devotional curriculum. Throughout college, I felt as though I had a hand in various forms of ministry, and was just waiting to see which one “fit.” I ended up following my gifts and interests; when I thought about the future, what I really wanted to do was keep learning. I realized that in a critical time in my life when I was owning and exploring my faith, my experiences in my Biblical Studies classrooms and with my professors had been formative alongside my ministry in the church. As I pursued further degrees and began teaching, I have always had one foot in the academy and one in the church, so to speak; it is important to me that my service within the church is consistent with my life in the classroom and vice versa.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
Seeing students grow in their love of God and neighbor. One of the most common questions I get from students who are looking to grow in their faith is the question of how can I nread the Bible both critically and devotionally. Students often view the “academic” study of the Bible completely apart from faith. They try to separate out “homework” and “real” devotional study of the Bible that shuts out any larger historical, literary, or theological questions and looks solely for what the Bible “means to me” personally in the moment. When I see the two merge—when a student realizes that those big questions about the Bible, theology or doctrine are devotional questions, that they are growing in their faith by enriching their minds, I feel great joy. I like to point out that there is even a commandment that tells us “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) all of these “loves” are inseparable and inform one another.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Self-doubt. When I began teaching, I was very worried about finding my professor “persona.” I wanted to be taken seriously by my students, my colleagues, and other ministers. A proper persona would hide any of those nagging doubts (what if I’m not good enough? Smart enough? Confident enough?) The same fear is present when I have had the task of preaching, as well. What if my voice doesn’t sound like a “preacher voice” both literally and figuratively? I had a quote on a sticky note on my desktop for many years with the words “identity and integrity” to combat this doubt. The inspiration for those two key words came from Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach, which I read in Dr. Rosalie Beck’s Teaching Colloquy. Palmer writes, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” In my mind, I alter the quote slightly—good ministry cannot be reduced to technique; good ministry comes from the identity and integrity of the minister. This quote reminded me through the years that my calling was not to craft the right persona for ministry; my identity is in Christ and the way I live that out, my integrity, is what students will see. While I am constantly striving to improve upon my teaching or preaching technique, the Gospel is ultimately not dependent on my skills or my abilities. Paul says it better in 2 Corinthians, “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor 3: 4-6a).
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
“If you can do anything else–do it.” When I first heard these words spoken with regard to ministry I thought, “Well, that’s harsh! It sounds like a discouraging thing to say to young ministers.” However, I have realized over the years what it means in the day-to-day grind of ministry. On days when I am discouraged (or semesters in the midst of global pandemics where everything about teaching is in chaos), if I would take a moment to evaluate my calling; I realize that right now, there is nothing else I can imagine doing that would let me live into a calling to serve the church, using my gifts and interests, and bring me joy. Ultimately, I cannot do anything else other than try to live out a calling to ministry—to serve the church. What that looks like vocationally may shift and change over the years, but I cannot walk away from ministry.