Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview, Kim Brewer. 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.
I grew up in a quasi-fundamentalist church tradition and the only time I ever saw a woman at the pulpit was during the special music time. But that never stopped me from being involved in ministry. As soon as I was old enough, I was serving in the church nursery, teaching VBS, singing in the choir, and working with the youth group.
I received my first call to ministry when I was around 20, and because it was the only option for me, I believed that my calling was to be a youth minister. But then life took over. I was soon in so much college loan and other debt, that I couldn’t survive on a minister’s salary. As a result, I shoved that calling into a closet and soon it was lost in a dark corner somewhere.
Fast forward about 20 years and I found myself in new territory. In 2014, my husband died by suicide. The life I had built was demolished in an instant. I had a good job that paid well, but in the grand scheme of things, it lost its allure. I looked around at the work that I was doing and none of it seemed to matter. I felt God prompting me to realize there was something more for me.
So, I did what every therapist tells you not to do during the first year of experiencing a great loss. I made a huge change. I quit my job, moved from Illinois to Texas, and started my studies at Truett Theological Seminary. I didn’t have a clue what my end goal was; I just knew that going to seminary was the next right step.
My belief that women shouldn’t be pastors was still intact…at least for a short time.
I was introduced to an article by Thomas Oden called, “On Women and Men Working Together in the Church” and in it he reviewed the problem passages that women in ministry face and gave examples of women who played significant roles in the Bible. It was this single article that started me down the path of realizing that my long-held belief about women in ministry was wrong. The dominoes started falling from there and they fell fast. Within a couple of years from that first semester in seminary, I found myself shifting from women shouldn’t be pastors to believing that I was called to be a pastor. I had finally found my true calling.
In December 2018, I got a call from Pantano Baptist Church in Tucson, Arizona to interview for their associate pastor position. On May 5, 2019, I was voted in as the first female pastor of the church.
Within 5 years, my life has gone through a whirlwind of change seesawing somewhere between exhilarating and terrifying. My life only works because of my husband, Jason. We’ve only been married since 2017, so he’s gone through most of this process with me and he hasn’t balked once. Not when I realized God was calling me to be a pastor. Not when I called him and asked him what he thought about moving away from his large family in Texas to Arizona, and not by the idea that we may not live in Arizona forever. He’s the reason I can do what I do.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The kids in our church bring me a tremendous amount of joy when they run up to me and want to tell me about their week or ask when we’re doing Kids’ Club next. Or, when they ask to come over to my house, so we can play board games. Or, when the shyest kid in the church speaks up during the children’s sermon. On days when I feel discouraged, all I have to do is think about these moments and a smile spreads across my face.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Our congregation is aging. We know for the church to survive, we need younger people to start attending. However, it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. It takes time. The whole process can be frustrating and discouraging for our members and for me. My challenge here is keeping at it and staying optimistic for our future.
I come from project work environments where there were specific tasks and plans. In my current work environment, I never know what’s going to happen each week. In some respects, this gives me tremendous freedom to accomplish what needs to be done, but it also means I’m the only one who knows what to do. Some days I do, and some days I wish someone would just slip a note under my door with my to-do list for the week.
May 19, 2020, marks my one-year anniversary as pastor in my first-ever ministry position. To be completely transparent, I am still not entirely sure what I’m doing, inside or outside of the COVID-19 quarantine. I am utterly appreciative that I was accepted into the BWIM mentoring cohort because I’m walking alongside other new ministers who support me in these times of uncertainty.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
It wasn’t advice, but an experience. My late husband was an alcoholic. I started going to our church’s recovery meetings to understand his addiction. It was in those meetings I had a revelation. I had been in church my entire life, but the recovery meetings demonstrated what the church community could and should be. Instead of masks, I saw a shared understanding that life is difficult; and voicing that difficulty is the most courageous and healing thing to do. There were the acknowledgments that we all mess up sometimes. In the recovery world, relapses happen; but instead of being met with judgment, people were met with love, grace, and encouragement to keep working through the steps. This group was a true embodiment of the love of Christ. My experience with this community continues to inform my ministry today.