Kyle Claunch is busy. Yes, he’s been teaching Systematic Theology and electives on the Holy Spirit and salvation for the last nine months at Southern Seminary. But the opportunity to teach at Southern is not the only — or even biggest — responsibility he’s juggling right now.
He’s also the husband of Ashley, the father of Josiah, Micah, Samuel, Alexandria, and Lila — a two-year-old with a severe hearing impairment who they just adopted in January. On top of that,he’s the senior pastor of Highland Park First Baptist Church in Louisville. Being a husband and father provides as many daily challenges as the classroom.
Claunch, who graduated from Southern with his Master of Divinity in 2011 and his Doctorate of Philosophy in May 2017, finds balance through prayer.
“There’s just this disposition that prayer puts in your heart that you just say, ‘Lord, who is sufficient for these things?’” he shared. “I look at the task ahead of me on all three of those fronts and I just say, ‘These things are holy, and they are way too precious to be dropped. And I’m going to drop something. I know I am not sufficient for this, but you’ve called me to this, so I’m looking to you for help.’”
Still, he says he hasn’t “ever gotten the balance right. I feel like I’m always living in an adjustment.” He’s thankful, though, for his time as a student at Southern, because it was during those times that he learned the weight of family responsibilities and the weight of pastoral responsibilities.
He sees his role not just as a pastor, but specifically as pastor of Highland Park, as an anchor for his professorship. Claunch says he values his real-world ministry experience, because it shapes the way in which he approaches the classroom. His students have noted that he approaches teaching in a very “pastoral” manner.
“I hope what that means is I’m just deeply aware of how these truths, these rich and glorious truths, really forge the way forward for the life of the church and they lay the groundwork for real Christian discipleship for the people in the pews,” he said.
Claunch also noted that ministry experience is something Southern champions, and for that, he’s thankful. And because he was so recently a student, he feels that helps him connect with his students.
“I had a student last night tell me he was just called to be a pastor,” he said. “I was able to look at him and say, ‘Let’s get coffee.’” This student is a new M.Div. student, newly married, and Claunch knows “a little bit of what he’s about to embark on,” he said.
He hopes to be a source of encouragement to that student. “I delight in being able to do that and being able to invest in that way. It’s a real privilege,” he said.
This juggling act has also helped him and his church have a “kingdom vision,” he explained.
Although his church makes sacrifices for him to be a professor, too, many times in just accepting that it may be another member of the pastoral staff visiting them in a hospital, this is worth it.
“I have just been so rewarded to think about training future pastors, missionaries, church planters and just the kingdom impact that a place like this has,” he said.
“It is overwhelming thinking about the exponential impact on the kingdom of heaven from the people who are part of this place.”
He is excited that Highland Park seems to have “caught that vision.”
But even in the midst of chaotic days, he still finds time for family. “I protect that time like I would a meeting,” he explained of his family time. And he knows that the life he has now wouldn’t be possible without his wife’s dedication. “I truly rise up and call her blessed,” he added.
He makes time to take his daughters for dates, raise a turtle farm of sorts with his sons, and enjoy late night talks with his wife. When people ask him when he has time to live his life, he says, “This is it. This is life.”
“Looking back across my life at the way he’s orchestrated the details that led me to this point, I just think if he can just take my life and put me in a place to have an impact like this then, I tell others, just follow him. He wants to put you in a place where you can maximize your effectiveness for his kingdom. He delights in that. And it may be costly. But that’s where he’ll lead you if you’ll follow him.”
“I pinch myself all the time and think, ‘Wow! Do I really have this opportunity?’” he reflected.
The busyness is worth it.