Kimberly Salley officially assumed her role as the new Executive Director of Sunshine Gospel Ministries on September 15, 2020. Kimberly is a servant leader who brings to Sunshine years of developing, implementing, and running programs for youth and families. All with a focus on helping provide resources and opportunities, and support needed to maintain and improve communities. Kim is an advocate for justice and equity. I sat down with Kimberly this week for a Q&A, allowing her to open up and share more about herself.
Holly: Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me today! I’m excited for others to get to know you more and hear the exciting way God has brought you to Sunshine. Let’s start by providing a little context and history of where you grew up.
Kimberly: Well, I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago by a single mom and attended Chicago Public Schools. I was the first generation in my family to graduate from college. I went on to earn my undergraduate degree from Howard University and then an MBA from Northwestern University. A fun fact, the first job I landed after undergraduate school was as a Staff Accountant for the Chicago Cubs! It was really fun to take our lunch breaks and watch the games or practices. My husband really loved that perk!
Holly: Tell me about your husband and children!
Kimberly: I met my husband Chris while in high school at Lindblom Technical High School (currently known as Lindblom Math and Science Academy). We got married a year after graduating from undergraduate school. We lived in Hyde Park initially and then relocated to Stamford, Connecticut for about four and half years. Upon returning to the Chicago area we settled in Flossmoor where we continued to raise our four children – Kendall, Courtney, Christin and Kyle. Our older two have completed college and work in their respective fields, our youngest daughter is completing her doctorate degree at Georgia Institute of Technology, and our youngest is in his third year at Duke University. Chris is bi-vocational, as he is the Senior Pastor of our church, New Life Christian Fellowship, and a Managing Director at a private equity firm based in New York.
Holly- I know you’ve been in ministry for most of your married life. Tell me more about how you ended up engaged in youth ministry specifically.
Kimberly- After I finished graduate school, the Lord really began tugging at my heart about the plight and future of our youth. I saw youth who were susceptible to becoming truant, dropping out of school or other at-risk behavior. I saw this through the lens of them being hopeless and in some cases despair and in need of someone to come alongside them and show them a different path. For me I knew that the hope they needed can only be found in having a personal relationship with Christ. It was then I felt called to be a light in the midst of the darkness – “to be a catalyst for change, to help R.I.S.E (Respect the Intellectual Strength through Education) up against the social injustices they are subjected to daily. As a result, I started a non profit in 2008 called Jabez Ministries Incorporated (JMI), which met the needs of under-resourced youth in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Our mission and vision for JMI aligned with Sunshine’s Youth Outreach programming, which upon my initial introduction to Sunshine was endearing.
Holly- Tell me more about your experiences running Jabez Ministries.
Kimberly- Our first program was “A-Cubed,” an afterschool program that focused on academics, arts and athletics. At the time we were meeting the need in the community to help the school district whose schools were all on academic watch. It was a blessing to serve elementary kids one-on-one and in small groups to provide academic remediation and enrichment daily. I absolutely loved interacting with the kids and their families! Hearing the buzz of activity and their voices and laughter gave me life! I had a great team of staff and volunteers who served the kids with Godly excellence. The ministry grew and offered a couple more programs, one of which was Project 31, a mentoring program for teenage girls based on Proverbs 31, with year two of each cohort culminating with a mission trip to Zambia, Africa. When I took the job at Sunshine as the Director of Youth Programs, I loved that my office was near the Elementary and High School space because I could hear the activity of the kids! I love the individual relationships and discipleship that forms and seeing kids really go deeper in their faith. One of the hardships of running the ministry was the fundraising aspect. It was challenging to balance the operations of the organization with the intense reality and concern related to making payroll which, of course, was essential to staff and their families.
Holly- So the Lord eventually led you to a position with the YoungLife organization?
Kimberly- Yes! I found out about the position from my neighbor/friend through our Moms International Prayer group. In 2012 a position for Area Director of Chicago South Suburban opened. I was excited to continue working with youth, but alongside an army of youth ministers and servant leaders, as opposed to feeling like a lone ranger in ministry with youth through JMI. I enjoyed the training and sharing of best practices and fellowship amongst staff. In my area and role, I was able to pour into youth. I recruited leader volunteers, hired staff, and enjoyed developing them through training, spiritual formation, and serving alongside or under their leadership. I loved watching them all develop and grow. I also had to fundraise for my area as well as recruit and develop our local area board of directors which we called our “area committee.” In 2017, I became the Collaborations Director for the Chicagoland Region. I also served on Regional and Midwest Divisional Leadership Teams and National Committees while on staff with YoungLife. I learned, I grew and I served with and have some awesome lifelong friendships through my time with YoungLife. I have that same enthusiasm and excitement about ministry with Sunshine.
Holly- And through YoungLife, you first got connected to Sunshine?
Kimberly- Personally, I became connected to Sunshine in my role as the Collaborations Director for Young Life. Sunshine’s middle and high school programs are part of the Young Life/Sunshine collaboration. So in that role I had been spending time training and lending support to SGM staff (Lamar, Jazlyn and Donnell) through our monthly meetings and Fall and Summer camping experiences. When the position for Director of Youth Programs opened at Sunshine, Donnell strongly suggested that I consider it. After a conversation with Andy Combs, the Managing Director of Operations, I learned so much more about the other aspects of ministry for youth, families and the community. I was in awe because it was so similar to what I had envisioned years ago for JMI! When the doors closed for that ministry, it didn’t close for the in-depth vision and heart I had for youth, families and community. After much prayer and a few conversations I pursued the opportunity. It was during this time that the dots were connected for me that one of the youth camps my husband attended in his youth was Sunshine. My husband’s parents grew up in Cabrini Green and were a part of the original Sunshine Gospel Mission. Both his parents were leaders at the Sun-Chi-Win camp in Union Michigan and he grew up going to the camp every summer from the time he was a toddler until he was a teen. Sunshine was a great influence in his life. He still knows the camp song!
Holly- That’s an amazing full-circle story to hear how the burden for youth that God laid on your heart years ago has paved the way for this new chapter at Sunshine! What are you looking forward to in this new role?
Kimberly- In the last two to three years my desire to pour into and develop the next generation of youth ministers has been a driving force to develop staff, provide spiritual formation, build diverse teams, and engage in collaborations. I am looking forward to continuing these things, as well as building relationships with a range of community stakeholders in assessing best practices and increasing our reach and effectiveness in the Woodlawn Community to ensure that our impact is both meaningful (for youth and families) and measurable. I am excited to come alongside Joel as we serve our mission to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. During these arduous times, I find strength in 1 Chronicles 28:20 which says, “Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you.” Which reminds me and strengthens/renews my belief that “trust (in God) reverses the detours of adversity into the highways of destiny” (Beth Moore).
Holly– When you aren’t working, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?
Kimberly- I love to spend time with my family. My children are awesome adults, we enjoy each other’s company and have a good sense of humor that brings laughter and good times- my mom is spry and gets in on the fun too! I enjoy praise dancing, it has been a while and I look forward to resuming this ministry after COVID-19. My favorite TV shows are Dancing with the Stars and World of Dance. I love to celebrate with people of all ages who overcome their fears and challenges, and find the courage to launch out and persevere.
Holly- We’re so excited to have you leading at Sunshine and look forward to watching the fruits of your leadership in the months and years to come!