To be passionate about teaching the Bible is not unusual in Southern Baptist churches in the Bible Belt. To serve with one’s husband at churches throughout the Southeast also isn’t unusual.
But to be able to add humor to that ministry and then have this talent nurtured by humorist Jeanne Robertson is rare.
Debbie Childers, author, humorist and Bible study leader, says she had “sort of always done comedy,” but she first realized she could combine her desire to teach the Bible with her love of humor during a breakout session at a Woman’s Missionary Union event.
“I did a comedy thing based on Martha Stewart and Martha in the Bible and compared the two. It was a good lesson but it ended up being hilarious,” Childers said.
Her first breakout session had a great response. The crowd doubled during the second session and for the third, there were women sitting out in the hall.
Childers remembers thinking, “This might be something I want to do.”
Meanwhile, studying the Bible was an unquenchable thirst. She started teaching Sunday School and began adding humor to the lessons.
She was asked to speak at a women’s retreat, and soon others heard about her and began inviting her to their events.
“It was kind of different from anything else out there, so I got lots of opportunities,” Childers said. “I’ve done that the whole time (my husband) Tim’s been in ministry — I’ve had my own thing on the side.”
One person who has given Childers these opportunities is Frank Jones, musician and worship leader with Frank Jones Ministries. He and Childers met at a church where they had both served.
After becoming quick friends with Childers and her husband, Tim, Jones invited Childers to headline at some of his events. She now participates in some of his OASIS events for older adults.
Then, a couple of years ago, what many could call her biggest break occurred.
Childers had an intense admiration for Jeanne Robertson and had emulated her style for 30 years and always dreamed of meeting her. In fact, Childers called herself a “walking, talking encyclopedia of Jeanne Robertson.”
“Pretty much my style is a lot like Jeanne’s style. I tell different stories but I tell them in the same style,” Childers said.
Childers’ Sunday School knew about this desire and talked her into entering a contest Robertson held for fellow humorists. The prize was performing as the opening act for Robertson for one show as well as being mentored by her.
Childers won and ended up getting to perform with Robertson four times. Furthermore, if Robertson wasn’t available to speak at an event, she would sometimes refer the client to Childers.
Though performing with Robertson was “a gift from God” and Childers was excited by the mentoring, the best part was getting to be close friends. She even went to Robertson’s house and met her friends.
“I realized that was a gift to me from God. He gave me those two years with her. He knew how much I wanted to meet her. Standing on that stage with her after dreaming of that for so long was very memorable, very touching,” she said.
Though working with Robertson was amazing, there was one instance that stands out as being the funniest moment she has had, and it has to do with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and Scotty Goldman, director of the office of global missions.
“He was in the audience one time and I started telling stories. Scotty got so tickled that he was laying over his chair and crying. Everybody in there was laughing at Scotty because Scotty was laughing so much.
“But Scotty knew the people I was talking about. Scotty also had heard these stories before and so he would die laughing every time I was about to tell one. He would get tickled before I’d even start,” she said.
Tim Childers recently retired from pastoral ministry and has joined joined TAB Media Group as an advertising representative. Debbie said she couldn’t imagine having had a better life than they have had in their many years of ministry.
“My home church is Valley View Baptist in Leeds. I was so close to them. When we left there in 1985, we left with broken hearts because we loved that church and loved those people. They were like family to us. We left our families too,” she said.
However, Childers clung to the promise of Luke 18:29–30: “‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’”
“God promised me that and He has kept that promise to this day. We have friends who are like family in four different states. Even right now if I called one of them, they’d say, ‘What do you need? We’ll send it to you right now.’ He’s given us more friends and family than we ever would have had if we hadn’t gone into ministry.”
Childers is available to speak at events across the Southeast. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.