Posted by: Joe Palmer | February 26, 2010


It Takes a Congregation…

If it takes a village to raise a child then it takes a congregation to grow a future minister.

A small church in a small town in rural Arkansas, seldom has the luxuries of a youth minister or family life center.  So mentoring youth comes down to the parents, a few volunteers, and hopefully a minister who understands that young people need something more than Sunday morning worship.  Some youth today might feel sorry for me that I didn’t have all those things. I am grateful, because I had much more.

First of all, I was blessed with dedicated parents. My Mom and Dad modeled their faith before us daily. They didn’t do ritualistic things like nightly Bible studies, although I am all for that.  They simply talked about God, the importance of our church family, and their understanding of what being faithful meant.  That is a great beginning.

They surrounded us with other Christians whom became our friends.  Some of my best friends growing up were Jack Smith, Thurman Smith, and Inez Parten. All of these folks were decades older than I most of them half a century.  We played cards, talked, fished, hunted and lived our lives. I had some good friends my age, but these friends helped me by giving me an outlet where there was no peer pressure to do wrong. They showed love and acceptance.

Growing up I was blessed to have a wonderful church family in Monette, Arkansas. Two of the ministers who taught me during my teen years were great examples.  Art Smith baptized me into Christ.  He preached lessons even a boy could understand. He took time to do a Bible club after school to help us learn basic Bible facts. He played basketball and ping pong with the young boys.  He lived an exemplary life, and made being a Christian seem cool.

Tom Steed became the minister in my later teen years.  Tom was a science teacher turned preacher. While he preached at our church he went to graduate school at Harding in Memphis. He encouraged me to preach.  He modeled the life of a preacher who loved God, the church, and was dedicated to his ministry. He didn’t work for his paycheck. His paycheck allowed him to do ministry with all his heart.  I still remember the lessons I learned in his men’s leadership class. More so I remember his leadership in the church.

Growing up in a small church also meant getting involved.  I’ll never forget the experiences of going to Crowley’s Ridge Youth Camp every year. That one week a year was like a spiritual oasis in the dessert to young boy.  The annual trip to Youth in Action in Jonesboro Arkansas was always faith building. I wish I had known Jimmy Adcox the preacher at Southwest.  Even though I didn’t know him I admired him from a distance and marveled at his ability to preach. We went on several mission trips in our church and those were also very influential.  It was one of those mission trips that Neal Hicks taught a single devotional. I don’t know if Neal ever preached a lesson before the church, but that devotional impacted me to follow a path that lead me to the ministry.

This article started as a tribute to ministers who impacted me. It is ministers who preached, ministers who sat in the pews, ministers who parented, ministers who befriended a boy.  It wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Urell Dudley, Wilfred Matheney, and Sim Wallace men who shepherded the church in Monette, Arkansas while I was growing up.

Thank you for impacting my life.  There are more that I didn’t mention unsung heroes of the faith. They taught Bible classes, chaperoned trips, hosted devotionals, and many other things which can’t be mentioned.  You never know when your impact is going to make a difference, and you never know with whom.  Our duty is to simply live faithful to Christ.

Joe Palmer


  1. Joe, I loved reading that. It is so true that all of these influences are tributaries that have contributed to your life in such beautiful ways. Thank you for sharing this tribute to the ones who have graced your life with God’s presence!

  2. Thanks John I just couldn’t stop with the preachers. I could have included more. When we start being grateful it is hard to draw a line to stop.


  3. great article, Joe. All those people you mentioned are great folks all the way around. I will never forget Art Smith

    Via Facebook from Angela Dunigan

  4. Great article! I love reading about all these torch bearers!

  5. Joe I do not know you, I wish I had, I did know some of the men Urell and Winfred they were very good men. Enjoyed your article brings back good old memories of the pasted KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK the things these men ment to you besure and pass it on

  6. […] Dobbs Joe Palmer Paula Harrington Chris Gallagher Brian Nicklaus Lisa Bliss Leichner Keith Brenton Nick Gill […]

  7. Love the small congregations! There are the down sides but I agree with you totally. A wonderful place for preachers to take root!

    Thank You!

  8. Wonderful memories and writing Joe. I’m wondering if the Art Smith you speak of is the one we know. This one’s name was Mary Ellen.

  9. […] • Joe Palmer […]

  10. great testimony. glad JD suggested this.

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