A note from Kelly King: February is Black History month, and I thought it would be fitting to hear from one of our African American trainers on how women influenced her own leadership and the leadership of many others. I’m grateful for the contributions of African American women and how they continue to be leaders in their families, churches, and communities. If you would like to hear Carolyn at one of our You Lead events, she will be in Roanoke, Virginia on April 12. For more information, click here.
As an African American girl at the age of 12, my grandmother took me to church. I accepted Christ as my Lord and joined church for the first time. This is one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I became a regular Sunday School student, sang in the choir, and joined the Youth Ministry. Every weekend I would look forward to going to my grandmother’s house to get to church. It brought so much joy and fun to me and to my grandmother. We enjoyed the services, listening to the sermons, having meals together, and fellowshipping with other families. Church was the highlight of our week.
My life has been greatly enriched because of Christ and my involvement in the African American church. Not only my life, but the lives of so many African Americans are better because someone decided, “We are going to church!” As I reflect on the impact of the African American church on my life as well as others, I have been asking many of my friends, “Do you remember your first visit to church? Who brought you?” Many shared that it was their mother or grandmother who brought them to church. In some cases, it was a lady in the neighborhood who gathered up children. A small percentage said their fathers and both parents were responsible for them going to church. As a woman in leadership, I found it interesting that the majority of the men and women who I informally surveyed would contribute their first encounter with church to an African American woman. These women who were convinced that they had to go to church and gather up their children, grandchildren, and the neighbor’s children.
In the church, we were able to see leaders who looked like us. The pastors were often African American men and many of the ministries were led by women. Women led the choir, Usher board, missionary board, women’s groups, Sunday School classes and prayer groups. It was in church that I was given my first opportunity to hold a position and then to become a woman in leadership. As a teenager, I served as the Sunday School secretary and later became the President of the Youth Ministry. My relationship with Christ was nurtured by going to church on a consistent basis and by developing relationships with women who were in leadership. Today, I serve as the Director of the Queen Esther Ministry, a discipleship program for women at First Baptist Church of Glenarden. I can’t help but think it all started because my grandmother said: “Let’s go to church!”
In honor of Black History month, we thank God for the African American church which was and still is one of the greatest sources of strength, spiritual enrichment, and development in the African American community. I personally thank God for all of the African American women who have historically led and set examples that continue to inspire women to bring their children to church and to serve as woman in leadership.
Carolyn Tatem is a native of Washington, D.C. Carolyn gave her life to the Lord at the age of twelve and has been committed to serving the Lord ever since. She serves in various ministries at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. She is the director of The Queen Esther Ministry, a discipleship program for women. She has taught a variety of Women’s Focus Study classes and currently teaches middle school. She has written a book and workbook for married couples and a book for singles: Marriage from A to Z (Principles for a Successful Marriage) and Marriage from A to Z for Singles. In addition, she writes a weekly post on the Marriage from A to Z blog. Carolyn has been happily married to her husband William Tatem for 20 years. Together they have three children.