Back Jim Jenkins celebrates 15 years on staff
September 13th, 2013
By Kaylan Christopher, Staff Writer
The first thing you notice about Jim Jenkins is his smile. Down the halls of Brentwood Baptist, you'll catch him joking with passersby, making them laugh.
Stay with him a few more minutes and you'll clearly see how much he loves Brentwood Baptist. It's like a stamp on his forehead—and definitely on his heart.
He's faithfully loved and ministered to the people who go here. That's why we celebrate him and his 15 years of service to this church family.
Where he got his start
For the first 28 years of his career, Jim worked for AT&T. The demanding job moved his family all over the United States to nine different cities in New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
Just starting out in his mid-20s, he and his wife, Dianne, got serious about their faith. That launched them into working with students at every church they attended along the way.
"When we found Young Life, we started doing Bible studies in our home, inviting in 25-30 kids every week," Jim said. "I worked a full-time job, traveled, and coached our sons. But our sons were involved in the ministry and we loved it."
In their early 30s, Jim and his wife thought they were being called to full-time mission work. They prayed for months about it and God replied, "Prepare. Get ready. But not now."
Meeting Brentwood Baptist for the first time
In 1987, the Jenkins family moved to Nashville. After a year of searching for a church home, they still hadn't found one. That is, until his son came home from Brentwood Baptist one Sunday with some news.
"Brad was dating the daughter of a Brentwood Baptist church member. He said, 'I think I've found the place where we need to go.' She took him to church, and he took us to church. We went the next Sunday, and now they can't get rid of me."
According to Jim, the family had certain criteria in their quest for a church. He said, "Do they teach the Bible? Can we serve there? And does our whole family fit in with them?"
Brentwood Baptist met all three.
Serving as a layman at Brentwood Baptist
From that first Sunday, Jim dove in head-first. Over the next several years, he taught Sunday School, served on leadership teams, and volunteered as an usher and greeter.
In 1996, AT&T offered retirement and he took it. For over 15 years, Jim had been preparing for the day when God would give him the green light and his family could finally move into missions. So he and his wife filled out the necessary paperwork to go.
At that same time, his parents got sick and his kids came to them and said they didn't want to go. "We asked God what was going on, and the Lord told me to go to seminary. But I said, 'No way. I'm not going to do that. I don't want to work on a church staff,'" he said.
Answering the call to ministry
As a member in leadership, Jim had been working with Pastor Mike Glenn and others on a new discipleship strategy for the congregation. He was assigned to write the lessons on submission and commitment.
"At about 3:00 a.m. one Saturday morning, I was in my office working. God said to me, 'Do you believe this? You either believe it or you don't. If you don't, then stop writing and talking about it. If you do, then go to seminary and do what I tell you to do."
The next morning, when he got up, he told his wife what had happened. And she responded, "The Lord told me that three weeks ago. I was waiting on you to say something."
Finally, at 51 years old, he was ready. He enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and went to work at First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.
Joining the staff of Brentwood Baptist
In 1998, Jim interviewed to join the staff at Brentwood Baptist. Leadership asked him: How do you want us to measure you in this role?
"My answer was, and always has been, changed lives. Counting numbers just means we make something attractive. But if we can monitor changed lives, then that's how I want to be measured because that's also God's standard."
From that point until 2002, he served as College & Singles Minister and briefly served as Interim Education Minister. Now, as the Stewardship Minister and RockBridge Foundation Director, he also oversees the hospitality ministry, new member process, and pastoral care.
The ministry he now leads
It's truly a gateway into worship, discipleship, and service at Brentwood Baptist. From parking lot missionaries to door greeters each Sunday, and from the Mission & Vision Class to the PLACE Classes each month, he looks forward to communicating what the vision is for Brentwood Baptist, setting the tone for their membership.
"I want to make this big church feel small. I want it to make those who walk through our doors each week feel like I did the first time I came—like I was at home."
Back then prepared him for right now
Jim says he can look back at the long drawn-out process of what it took to get here and see that what he learned then were things he needed for now.
"In New Jersey, I helped start a Young Life club. In Texas, we were part of a church plant. I learned how to manage chaos during the AT&T breakup. I saw the different spiritual environments of people in the northeast to those in New Orleans to those in the south. Working in government affairs with AT&T helped me learn about the personalities and profiles of people—and how to work with them in public venues."
But the most important lesson he learned? "How to depend on God more than myself. Some people are ready for ministry at 22, but I wasn't—not for what He wanted me to do. He had to teach me some things early on so I could do what I do now."
The legacy he's leaving
Along the way, several people have poured into his life: an older brother figure (when he was a young man); a young couple (when he started working with teenagers); seminary professors; and Frank Pollard, former pastor of First Baptist in Jackson, Mississippi.
He's seen the vision of a discipleship strategy come to fruition. He's seen a church grow beyond what they imagined. He's seen life after life changed by Jesus. He helped institute a PLACE Ministry so members could discover who they are and where they fit.
"We dreamed then, and to see it happen now is exciting. I don't believe I was called to a specific ministry here. I believe I was called to a specific body—this body. I have a passion for this church and I love the people here. And whatever He calls me to do next, I'll do it."