Colossians 3:16 (KJV) says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
This month we honor Dr. Tom Jenkins, who has been on staff at FBC Starkville for 11 years. Music is central to the Lord’s movement in his life. His call to ministry and his relationship with his wife, Dinah, two of the most significant and defining aspects of Tom’s life, both have their roots in music.
Born in Petal, Mississippi, to Thomas and Gail Jenkins, Tom’s early love of music came from his mother, a pianist and a singer. Now Gail Smith, she was the first to teach him piano. The greatest gift she gave him, though, was her confidence in his unlimited potential. Tom knew that whichever path he chose, she would be proud of him, and he found great freedom in that. Some of Tom’s earliest memories of music are of his mom, his sisters, and himself sitting in the front of church services and taking turns with the different musical parts during worship. Tom was very involved in music, both in the church and beyond; his first on-stage role was as the mayor of Munchkin Land in the Wizard of Oz. Tom’s lessons from his father were less uplifting but just as powerful. Growing up, he had seen his dad, an alcoholic, unhappily work a job he didn’t love. Tom knew that the career he chose would need to be enjoyable and fulfilling, and that his motivations would need to be passionate rather than financial.
Tom attended school in Clarksville, Tennessee; his high school career was composed of show choir, band, and musicals. But, his capabilities stretched beyond his voice, piano, and trumpet. Tom was also a straight-A student who enjoyed studying science, so when he started college, he was pursuing a degree in physics. He was still taking piano lessons and was involved in choir, but he never realized that a full-time position as a music minister even existed. His experiences were all in smaller churches which did not employ a worship leader. About the same time, his father was diagnosed with cancer, so Tom moved back to Petal to care for him. He began at University of Southern Mississippi in early 1980, and his father passed away in March of that year. In the fall, while walking on campus, Tom felt the Lord call him to music. And, through music, the Lord eventually called him to ministry.
During Tom’s many hours in the campus practice rooms, he met Dinah Grubbs, a fellow music major who quickly caught our music minister’s young attention. They dated for three years before Tom proposed with a poem on Christmas Eve 1985, to which Dinah responded, “No, no, no!” But let no accusations of cold-heartedness fly; Tom had already graduated and was working on his master’s degree in music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and he had not pursued communication very well while he was gone. Dinah was not even sure that they were still exclusively dating. Even still, Dinah graciously took Tom’s proposal under consideration and called him three months later in March to accept. Her answer came after she heard their song played in church that morning. She felt the words of “Seek Ye First” wash over her and the Holy Spirit telling her to marry Tom. They were married in 1986 and now have two, in Tom’s words, “perfect and wonderful” daughters, Danley and Allana. Danley is married to Chris Herring, grandson of Dr. Dora Herring, and she is a nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Columbus. Allana works at Starkville’s Hallmark store.
Tom earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. For a season, the Lord had Tom and his family in southern California, where Tom taught at California Baptist University in Riverside and served as music minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Moreno Valley. After eight years, the Lord brought the Jenkins family back to Mississippi, and after a period of transition, Tom received phone calls from both FBC Starkville and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus requesting him for interim positions as music minister and choral director, respectively. He took both full-time positions, but in the summer of 2006, FBC Starkville offered Tom a permanent position as Minister of Music. Chip Stevens came on staff that summer as well; he was voted in on the first Sunday that August, and Tom was voted in on the second.
Weekly, Tom’s job consists of administrative and planning meetings, overseeing music and media staff, conducting worship research, creative brainstorming, personal music practice, and coordinating the music ministry’s vast volunteer base. His favorite part of the job, though, is rehearsals. “Wednesdays are very long, but they are the best days of the week,” he says. “It is so much fun putting all of the elements of a worship service together.” It is such a joy for our church to experience those services.
FBC Starkville is blessed to have such a gifted, experienced, humble, and God-honoring man serving as our Minister of Music. Thank you, Tom, for the 11 years you have given to our congregation.