Debra Goulding has been the site-coordinator of the Cleburne Christian Women’s Job Corps in Cleburne, Texas, since 2014, and is a national trainer for CWJC/CWMC, training women and men to start new sites in the United States. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on leading this ministry supported by Texas Baptist churches in the Southwest Metroplex Baptist Association. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
I am currently filling in as the children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Cleburne, and have been since January 2018. Before that, I spent 21 years in education as an elementary teacher, an instructional coach for teachers and an assistant principal.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cleburne, Texas.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I became a Christian when I was around eight years old at a Bible school I was attending at a friend’s church. My mom had taken my sisters and me to church all our young lives, but I made that decision at a friend’s church. I guess you could say I was ready at that young age to commit myself to God because I had many opportunities to hear God’s word and had seen Christ in my mom.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I received a dual Bachelor of Arts in English/Education from the University of Texas at Arlington. I have my Master of Science in reading from Texas A&M Commerce. I have principal certification and lifetime ESL certification from UTA. I also have a lifetime Texas teaching certification. I received my CWJC/CMJC Level 1 and 2 training from the Women’s Missionary Union in Waco. I received my National CWJC/CMJC training from the Women’s Missionary Union in Dallas.
Why do you feel called into ministry?
I have always felt an urging from the Holy Spirit to teach and reach out to others. When I was 16, I started helping with Girls in Action, a group of young girls being taught about missions around the world. Since that time, I have worked in churches teaching God’s word through Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.
I had a successful career as a public educator for 21 years, but there was always something missing. I loved teaching and working with all ages of students, but I wanted to be more intentional in sharing the gospel, making sure everyone I met knew whose I was. That is not easy to do as a public school administrator.
I saw a bulletin board advertising the ministry of Christian Women’s Job Corps at First Baptist in Arlington, Texas, in the early 1990s, my home church at the time. This type of ministry really spoke to me. I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.
It wasn’t until years later, after my children were grown and gone, that I would pick that thought back up and run with it.
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Through the urging of the Holy Spirit, I decided to retire early from public education in 2014. I wanted more, and I knew God wanted more from me. He gave my husband and me great assurance that he would take care of our finances. I didn’t know what he wanted me to do at that time, I just knew that I was supposed to quit and seek his guidance for the next step.
A friend encouraged me to become a mentor for CWJC in Cleburne. For one 12-week semester, I mentored a young woman attending CWJC. During that time, I got to know the organization, and the seed planted years back came again to me.
My friend from church, Jocelyn Morgan, was on the advisory council of CWJC and offered me the position of site-coordinator. After prayer and discussions with my husband, I applied and was accepted as the new site-coordinator. It is wonderful to be in a position that you know God picked for you.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
Seeing people change into the person God wants them to be. Watching that change make a difference in their families.
What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?
Interviewing applicants for our Christian Women’s Job Corps site ranks as one of the best parts of the job. I love meeting the women God sends us, hearing their stories, and accepting them into our 12-week job readiness program. I pray for them before they leave the interview, and many are brought to tears at the acceptance and love they feel. It just fills me up to know that they have so much in store for them at CWJC.
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
I have learned that building relationships with people is the only way to facilitate a positive change in their lives. Band-Aid fixes of paying bills or giving grocery money do not help people in the long run. That type of aid often hurts rather than helps. It takes away their dignity and doesn’t address the underlying problems that are keeping them in need of assistance.
Once you begin to give monetary aid, your relationship with the individual changes from friend to provider.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
Funding: Our Christian Women’s Job Corps site only receives $600 a year funding through our local association Woman’s Missionary Union. We have a rent-free building through Field Street Baptist Church in Cleburne. These are things we are very thankful for. However, our budget is over $30,000, and we must raise this through fundraisers. This takes up a great deal of time that could be spent on ministry.
Staffing: Since we don’t have the money to pay staff, it is challenging to find teachers for computer, Bible and life skills classes. It is also challenging to find receptionists, office managers and assistant site-coordinators. But God is good, and he provides.
Child Care: Many ladies that would like to participate in our job readiness program do not have child care to help them get through the 12-week program. They have to wait until their youngest children get old enough for school.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
I wish people were more familiar with what we do at Christian Women’s Job Corps. We are a job readiness program for women offered in a Christian context. Our participants receive 12 weeks of training on computers, Bible, life skills and job skills.
We match our ladies up with a mentor, who will walk with them through the semester and beyond. The mentoring and the Bible study make our job readiness program unique.
Ladies who graduate our program are full of confidence and hope for a better life for themselves and their family. You can learn more about us at cleburnecwjc.org.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert and Boundries by Cloud and Townsend. These books have been great helps in my ministry with the ladies of CWJC.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plan I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This is the foundation verse for our CWJC site. We want our participants to know God has good plans for them.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you.
I’m really an introvert. I love people, but I need a quiet place to come home. Having some time to myself to study God’s word, pray and plan is necessary for me.