Finishing the Fourth Chunk!
On December 30th Jim Kramer will preach his last sermon as a pastor of Steamboat Rock Baptist Church. This marks the end of an inspiring and fruitful tenure as Pastor of Community Life. Jim Kramer was one of the first people I met from what was then First Baptist Church of Steamboat Rock. He was probably the first person to meet many of you. He and Gary Vander Wilt were at the North American Baptist Triennial convention in Sioux Falls, and I met them in the exhibit area. Jim had a beard then; I think he was growing it for the 150th celebration of Steamboat Rock.
When I arrived as pastor several months later, Jim was the chairman of the Deacon Board. Driving back from one meeting in Iowa Falls at Gale Bengtson’s house I broached the delicate subject of an accountability partner. He agreed, and until my sabbatical this summer, we met regularly to encourage each other in the struggle to follow Jesus further.
When we were developing our 2020 Vision, Snapper Corporation was in the process of buying out Luiken and Sons, where Jim had worked. Jim came to my old office, took a seat across the desk from me, and said, “You need help!” Now this was not news to me, but it did catch me off guard. Then he explained himself: “If we are going to achieve this vision you are going to need help.”
He volunteered to be a staff member of the church with no salary. He started in 2006. We gave him an office in the basement and a laptop. He paid Ralph Gast to build some of the nicest office furniture ever seen for his office! His title was Minister of Community Life. He agreed to work 20 hours a week, but he never kept his agreement. He has always put in full work weeks. He did so much work and cared for so many people that the congregation felt guilty not paying him. We started paying him a salary in 2010. Jim agreed to work for 20 hours a week, actually worked 40-50, and received a salary for about 6.
In 2011 we licensed Jim as our Pastor of Community Life. He has performed several weddings. He and Jane are sought after for premarital counseling. He has preached some great sermons during the years too. He often has wonderful visuals to aid in communication. Once he built a door on the platform to convey “the narrow way.” He was the advance gifts coordinator in two hugely successful capital campaigns. He has hosted or instigated some incredible fellowship events, the Ladies ‘ Gala being perhaps a culmination of his good work in this regard. He always helps wherever needed.
Small groups are a staple in our church because of the work that Jim Kramer has done. He has gone through a few organizational iterations, and he is still is not satisfied with his efforts. However, he has connected 100s of people in meaningful relationships. He found some young leaders to start the young adult group called Thrive that lived up to its name, until the young leaders had to move on. We all have to move on sometime.
Melissa M., a recent attender of our church and an astute observer of church life, coined a name for Jim during AWANA night, where he greets everyone at the door. She said, “You are the Connection Man.” Our Connection Man has made it possible for us to call a Connections Pastor full-time.
In Jim’s bio on the church web page, he divides his life into four chunks; the fourth chunk he labels “The Present Years.” Jim and Jane thank you for sharing this chunk of your life with us all. You have blessed and enriched our lives and we pray that God will richly bless you both in the years ahead!