Twice a Treveccan: Tidball Uses Dual Ministry Degrees to Help Women in Recovery

| Alumni

Jera Tidball portraitJera Tidball planned to spend her professional life as a secretary until her company downsized in the late eighties. Following that change, through an unemployment office, a career test revealed that she was well suited for a service-oriented profession. As she navigated foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce, single motherhood and various jobs in retail management, she never seriously considered her potential in that area until years later.

In 2013, Tidball was at a Nazarene district assembly where Trevecca President Dr. Dan Boone shared details of a new online degree: the Bachelor of Arts in Christian ministry degree completion program. 

“Dr. Boone finished sharing and my husband leaned over to me and said, ‘you should go back to school,’” said Tidball. “And I leaned over and said, ‘the Lord just told me that.” 

Tidball applied and became part of the new program’s first cohort, graduating in 2015. She incorporated her learning into ministry at her church and the desire to serve others led to her ordination in 2019. She now pastors at Lake Cumberland Church of the Nazarene along with her husband.

“In 2018, the Lord gave our church neighbors: the SKYHope Recovery Center for Women,” said Tidball. “They needed churches to provide space for women to attend classes. There were ten churches within walking distance and we were the only ones who said yes. When we did, God began a new thing.”

The community opened its doors, and Tidball was amazed at the impact that had on the congregants and on her calling.

“We have a church of only 25 people and we were all saved and all going to heaven and we were very comfortable, but something changed when we had the opportunity to love our neighborhood and work in our community,” Tidball said.

After COVID arrived, she ran across some information on Trevecca’s church and community master’s program. It appealed to her because of what had been happening at her church and in her local community. The Master of Arts in church and community focuses on training students to lead congregations and ministries within diverse communities, responding to issues like racism, immigration, generational poverty and changing neighborhoods while working toward reconciliation. 

In that program, with a little hard work, Tidball feels like her vision was expanded and she learned more about how to love people on the margins. 

“There was a big time commitment but it went by very quickly. The sacrifice is worth it,” said Tidball. “I also found it very rewarding to have a small cohort. In addition to learning from each other, we shared life: we laughed, cried, encouraged and lamented together. We have stayed in touch. I made lifelong friends.”

Tidball’s professors were also an important part of her journey. She found them helpful, available and encouraging. 

Once again, she was part of a program’s first graduating cohort at Trevecca, this time earning her master’s degree. Now she works to encourage others to chase their dreams and callings.

“My advice is to persevere past the fear and insecurity and just allow the Lord to lead you step by step. I graduated at 60 years old and it was a personal accomplishment,” Tidball said. “I have both graduation pictures hanging in my office and they are often the topic of conversation when I am encouraging women from SKYHope. God has given me the opportunity to love these ladies and my education helped me recognize that. I tell my own story and encourage them to pursue their dreams despite age or any past failure.” 

In addition to working with women in recovery, Tidball heads the women’s ministry for the Church of the Nazarene’s Kentucky district. She isn’t sure what her next step will be, but she is confident she has found her calling. 

“I don’t know what is next, I just know I have a passion for broken people,” Tidball said. “The world is broken and I want to have the courage and boldness to do whatever the Lord asks me to.”