Jerry Jenkins, host of longest-running Alabama religious program, dies at 74 (Updated)
Updated: See video below of the memorial service. Jerry A.…
Brothers Jeff and Dale Jenkins are ending their decades-long work in local ministry — nearly 80 years between them — to devote themselves fully to the broader work of The Jenkins Institute.
Since 2011, the institute has provided support and encouragement to preachers around the world. The brothers founded it in honor of their father, Jerry Jenkins, a longtime Church of Christ preacher and host of the “The Living Word” TV broadcast, who died in 2010.
In the decade since the institute began with two blogs and a webinar, it has grown to offer more than a dozen programs, including preaching conferences, retreats, mentoring, podcasts, research, church consultations and a minister relief fund.
Still, growth has been limited to a degree as both Jeff and Dale have continued preaching full-time in their local congregations while working with The Jenkins Institute. Jeff has served as the preaching minister of the Lewisville Church of Christ in Lewisville, Texas, since 2004, and Dale has served as the preaching minister of the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, Tenn., since 2007.
But on a recent Sunday, Jeff preached his last sermon at the Lewisville congregation. Now, he’s focusing his efforts fully on the institute. Meanwhile, Dale is still preaching at Spring Meadows but said he will be joining Jeff soon.
Dale told the Chronicle the two are fully on this journey together:
“We had made the decision some time back that when one of us decided to make this decision, within that same time frame or shortly after, we would both do this so that we could do it together — so that we could travel together and do the conferences together and plan out our future … together.”
Jeff was the first one to make that decision. Dale said the timing felt right to Jeff after his wife, Laura, died in 2019.
The Jenkins said they’ll miss the congregations they have each served for more than a decade and the everyday interactions with their members, but they are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.
“Now we’ll be able to expand our work with ministers and congregations — as far as freedom to travel and without the responsibilities of the day-to-day ministry of a local congregation,” Dale said. “We’ll be able to counsel more preachers and be able to interact with more ministers.”
And, in a sense, Dale said these preachers they will work with throughout the brotherhood will become their congregation. They will be ministering to the ministers — who often don’t get much of that themselves.
Jeff said that the ministry of The Jenkins Institute goes beyond just teaching preachers how to do their job. It’s about counseling them and keeping them from becoming discouraged.
“We don’t view our work as training preachers necessarily,” he said. “We believe we have a lot of schools that do that. But we view our ministry as trying to help preachers stay in preaching.”
And while the institute is involved in many visible conferences, workshops and retreats, it’s the “intangible things” — one-on-one counseling, taking phone calls, just being there and listening when a preacher or his family needs someone to talk to — that Dale said will be much of the brothers’ focus going forward.
“That’s not really chartable in a sense, but it will become even more a part of what we are able to do as we have more time to listen to guys and advise them and hurt with them and work with them through challenges they face,” he said.
They’ve also added a consultation wing to the institute to help congregations that are struggling with internal conflict or lack of growth. It will include men from around the brotherhood who have direct experience with church growth and can help other congregations apply methods that have proven successful.
“Both of us are very optimistic about the church — the Church of Christ — about the future of the church,” Jeff said. “We see a lot of good things, and our goal is to just try to help that to continue to be a part of who the church is.”
But even though the brothers are leaving the work of their local congregations, they have no intention to stop preaching. On the contrary, they each hope to visit and preach at more than 100 congregations every year.
“Neither of us wanted to stop preaching,” Dale said. “In fact, we both anticipate we’ll probably preach a little bit more even than we have in the past. It just won’t be with the same congregation every Sunday.”
Still, it is the chance to strengthen good preachers and their families and keep them in ministry that the brothers are most grateful for and most look forward to.
“This is my passion,” Jeff said. “This is Dale’s passion. And to have the opportunity to be able to work together — for me to get to work with my brother on this — is a tremendous blessing. And this is how we’re going to spend the rest of our lives.”
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