Rev. Kim Parker wants young people to be able to connect to the church in a way that is a relevant, significant part of their lives, whether that’s through a Sunday morning worship experience, or some other gathering through the week.
“It’s the most fertile time to reach someone, as they are really developing and forming who they want to be,” Parker said.
As the Missouri Conference Director of Next Generation Ministries, Parker will be the staff person responsible for Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) and college-age ministry. She is an Ordained Deacon from the Mississippi Conference.
Parker grew up in Virginia. Her parents were teachers and coaches.
She spent summers on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They moved a lot for her Dad’s coaching jobs, and attended a lot of college sports were he could see his former high school athletes play. They went to church, but it wasn’t a big focus for the family.
“After the team would lose a game, Dad would say he didn’t want to go to church, because he thought people would think he’s going just because we lost. Then he would say the same thing after we won,” Parker said.
Parker went to college for a degree in health and physical education. It was there that she really got tuned in to God while in college. She was walking across campus at Old Miss, and saw the Wesley House playing volleyball and grilling burgers.
“I thought, ‘Hey, I like volleyball, I like hamburgers, and I’ve been to Methodist churches,” she said.
She joined the group, and soon it was a big part of her life, and she was involved in a lot of statewide campus ministry activities.
By the end of college, rather than looking for a coaching job, she was motivated to follow her call to a different kind of teaching, and enrolled in seminary at Asbury.
She likes to try new things – like starting a new worship service at a church that occurred simultaneously with an existing worship service.
She has served in pastoral roles in four churches in the Mississippi Conference. She’s excited about what lies ahead.
“I’m impressed with the things the Missouri Conference is being intentional about, like putting a focus on Pastoral Excellence and Congregational Excellence,” Parker said.
Parker likes how the Missouri Conference has shifted the role of reaching college students back to the local church, because she too often saw students from the Wesley Houses on campus not make the transition after graduation.
“Most of them weren’t going back to a local United Methodist Church after college,” she said. “If they went to church, it was to whatever the latest “Here and Now” church was, and often they were attending that church as a spectator rather than a participant.”
In addition to her role on Conference staff, Parker will also be working half-time for Missouri UMC in Columbia as the pastor of New Generations, responsible for the college age and young adult ministry.
“The cabinet has created this position that encompasses all of my gifts and graces,” she said.
“I like to work on a state-wide scale, but through this position I’ll still be able to be connected directly to a college campus, which is important to me.”