By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Character, as the personal dimension of leadership, refers to the narrative script that defines the individual – the stories that name the leader’s experience and the ‘inner experience’ or core philosophies espoused by the leader.
– Walter Fluker
On February 16, 1972, a Wednesday, at approximately 5:00 in the afternoon, Charles E. Jones, approached his pastor Rev. L. H. Newsom of Calvary Baptist Church, to announce that he was called to preach the gospel. Newsom swiftly licensed him, and Jones subsequently preached his first sermon a few days later.
Later, in 1972, Jones met his wife, Margo. They were engaged and married that year on September 2. Meanwhile, that same year, Christian Temple Training Center, the antecedent of Christian Temple Baptist Church, was founded by Jones’ mother, Daisy L. Huff, D.Min, heralded as the first female Baptist pastor in northwestern Ohio. Jones served as Huff’s co-pastor until her death and was installed as pastor of Christian Temple in March 1994.
Conscious of the power of character and the effectiveness of leading by example, Pastor Charles and First Lady Margo Jones currently celebrate 50 years of marriage, ministry and community leadership. We recognize the couple’s jubilee of leadership and love in honor of both Black History and Valentine’s Day.
Perryman: Pastors across the country are leaving the vocation because of ministry and its stress-related issues. Please talk about your issues of stress associated with ministry.
Jones: It would be a fairytale for me to tell you I haven’t had any issues. Problems arise in the average congregation as you mold and shape it, but it’s more about how you handle them. We have a loving group that provides what we need. So, I don’t have the stress that I hear some preachers have to go through. Our church is small, but qualitatively we are strong.
Perryman: Who are your mentors?
Jones: My mother was my pastor until she passed. After that, I took Reverend John W. Williams at Eastern Star Baptist as my pastor and confidant. Dr. John E. Roberts was on my ordination and a big brother to me in many ways throughout my ministry. Reverend I. J. Johnson at St. Mark was another one. Those three encouraged and helped me through things when I needed help.
Perryman: How about you, Mrs. Jones?
First Lady: My mother-in-law, Pastor Huff, was my beginning. With her being at one time a pastor’s wife, teacher, and then the pastor, I could go to her and talk. She groomed me into the way I am today because I had no one else to go to. After she passed away, Pastor Williams’ wife, Wanda Williams, and I became excellent friends. Because she had been in the ministry with her husband for a long time, we could share many things one on one. When Mrs. Williams passed, there was no one else left that I had confidence in to talk to. I have a friend in Sister Sue Fletcher, but I don’t really have anyone as far as anyone else. I talk to Pastor Jones and trust God that he can guide me.
Perryman: What lessons did you learn from either Mrs. Williams or Pastor Huff?
First Lady: From Pastor Huff, she was bold, believed in telling you the truth, and giving you what God gave her. She always would give you that foundation that you always want to acknowledge who God is in your life. Sister Wanda helped me know how to deal with people and other women, including the church’s young women. That was a new experience for me.
Perryman: Specifically, what qualities or traits do you currently have that were influenced by Sister Williams?
First Lady: I try to be upfront and honest with people. I don’t want to ever look down on anyone, whatever the situation or circumstances they may be going through. I don’t look down on anybody, but I want to try to help in any way that I can. I know this is not an easy position to be in because people talk negatively about first ladies all the time. So, I feel like I am that example. I had two great examples before me, so I’m just trying to be the best example before God that I can.
Perryman: Pastor, what leadership traits did you acquire from your mentors?
Jones: My mother taught me how to be bold and honest in my dealings and live a life of integrity. When I started, I didn’t realize all she had done for me until I began pastoring myself.
Pastor Williams taught me to exhibit kindness when dealing with people. I thought I was kind, but I was very blunt in the way I gave things out. Dr. Williams taught me how to be a little smoother in getting my point over. The same thing with Dr. Roberts. Pastor Roberts was a kind, compassionate person. I don’t say I would want to be altogether like either of them, but the way they dealt with people was different from how I was doing it. They both taught me how to be better in my disposition. I.J. Johnson was just a friend that I’d known from when he came to Toledo, even before I started preaching. I served in his church for a while in the music department, so he was just a friend all the way down the line. I didn’t get a lot of guidance from him, but he did give some help in certain areas.
Perryman: How do you get all the ministry-related requirements done and give your own household the quality time it needs?
Jones: It’s tedious, but we worked hard to steer our children in the right way.
Perryman: Church is home, and home is also church when you grow up with clergy parents. Mrs. Jones, will you comment on the rearing of the children? And they all turned out as exceptional adults, so what’s the secret?
First Lady: We were blessed enough to put them in a Christian school, tried to instill in them the principles of the Bible, and strove to be positive examples before them. We were hard on them when necessary, but we let them know through our discipline that we were doing it because we loved them and wanted them to come up in the right way. I can’t say that it was totally easy, but in the same sense, it wasn’t that hard because they weren’t really bad children. Kids will be kids, but they knew that when we would tell them something, we meant what we said, didn’t play with it, and it just went from there. We just put our foot down and let them know.
Perryman: You’re coming up on fifty years of marriage. Are there specific self-care strategies you have to keep love and the relationship fresh?
Jones: We’re almost inseparable sometimes, I’ll say that, but we’ve done things together over the years and included the entire family. We take family vacations every year, and it’s become quite expensive as the family has grown, but a certain unity has evolved from these things.
Perryman: If I might add, Mrs. Jones, my wife was talking to me before we even decided to do this interview, telling me how you used to do something with the family called greens Thursday. Please tell me about that.
First Lady: Well, she’s got my secret. Everybody who knows the Jones family knows that Thursday is our day. Each week, almost every Thursday and Sunday, the children and the grandchildren are over here at the house.
We initiated that back when they were very young, because number one, Pastor Jones loves greens, and he loves chicken. This was when The Cosby Show and A Different World came on Thursdays, so we would gather around and watch TV and have our dinner. So, from that, it has graduated into a big thing now. Even if we’re out of town and all of us are together, I still do greens and cornbread. It’s a family standard, and we keep it going, but it keeps us together and provides unity.
Perryman: Are there any other relationship secrets?
First Lady: Also, I found out over the years that if you both are arguing and fussing at each other, you can’t really settle anything. So, I concluded that I would just say nothing, and eventually, he would stop talking. And, once that happened, we could sit down and talk it over. We would always end up laughing about it because it was probably something stupid or silly.
First Lady: I’d just be quiet for a little while, and then we would get it together. I can truthfully say that for these almost 50 years, we’ve never gone to bed angry and have settled our disagreements before we went into God’s house. So, if you’re calling names and fussing, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Also, we wanted to be a good example as the kids were growing up, so that’s how we began raising a family.
Perryman: Finally, let’s talk about some lessons for this new generation. What can other preachers learn from Reverend and Mrs. Jones? What would you recommend? And I want to hear from each of you.
Jones: I recommend that the preacher or pastor truly love his wife and show her the proper respect. That’s one of the main things, and then love the family as he loves the church and as Christ loved the church. There are some things I do for her, like going out to dinner. I don’t always love to go out to dinner, but she loves it, so I’ll do that for her. I want to do that to make her feel good. If you treat your wife right, it’s going to come around and make a better marriage all the way around.
Perryman: Mrs. Jones, what do you say?
First Lady: People are always watching, and as I’ve stated before, we are examples. Pastor is an example as the pastor, as a father, and as a friend. So, if he’s living a crazy life and doing stuff that’s unpleasing to God, then what is that saying to the congregation? So, being in the position I’m in, I realize women are watching me, so how do I act in the church? Do I get excited, do I hold grudges? How am I as a mother? How am I as a grandparent?
Jones: It’s been a good ride!
First Lady: These 50 years have been a beautiful ride, and if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have any problem. I try to please him like when we make the Thursday dinner. I know my family likes certain things, so I try to please them. So basically, it’s just trying to be the right example as a mother, so they can look to me and say, you did okay, mom, and I appreciate you. I love my family and my husband. So, I’m available to do anything that I can do in this ministry with him to help him out.
Perryman: Wonderfully stated. Thank you.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org