Q & A with Dr. Ben Martin, Statesboro District Superintendent
ADVOCATE: Where did you grow up? Have you always lived in South Georgia?
DR. MARTIN: I was born in Lyons, Georgia, in the Dublin District of the South Georgia Conference. With the exception of my years in college, I lived there until entering full time ministry in 1988. Growing up in a small South Georgia county-seat town gave me a love for the close-knit community you find in small towns.
ADVOCATE: What’s your faith journey? Did you grow up in the church?
DR. MARTIN: I was blessed to grow up in a family of faith that was committed to the church. Not only did my parents and extended family invest in the development of my faith, but so did numerous pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth and children’s workers, school teachers, and neighbors. Though I drifted from my childhood faith, it was that foundation that turned me back to Christ and the church in a search for a new life as a young adult. My personal experience of faith has certainly been a journey through Wesley’s understanding of prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace.
ADVOCATE: How did you get started in ministry?
DR. MARTIN: Having made a renewed commitment to Christ in my life, our church’s youth director, Sally Nettles Wolfe, invited my wife and I to help teach VBS. That surprisingly meaningful experience led us into an active role in the youth ministry of the Lyons FUMC and being mentored by Rev. Carl Bishop. I worked full time for Georgia Power, but began to find the most meaningful work in my life was in the church. At the Dublin District Camp Meeting in 1987, Jim Jackson expressed a sense of someone being called into full-time ministry and made that invitation. I knew that night, that call was for me.
ADVOCATE: Tell me about your family.
DR. MARTIN: My wife Susan and I met in college at Mercer University. We have been married for 26 wonderful years. While she did not marry a pastor, she nonetheless has embraced the calling and has been my encourager and partner in ministry. We were blessed with three beautiful daughters. Katie is 23 years old, and last year graduated from Georgia Tech, was married to Schley Knight, and went to work for Chic-fil-A corporate office in Atlanta. Our middle daughter Courtney is 19 years old and a college sophomore at Georgia Southern. Our youngest daughter Callie is about to turn 15 and will be in the tenth grade this year. My mother, Betty Martin, still lives in Lyons and is an active member of Lyons FUMC, and I have one sister who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
ADVOCATE: How did you find out that you had been appointed to be a District Superintendent? Did you get a call from Bishop King? What was your reaction?
DR. MARTIN: Bishop King called and talked over the possibility with me. We had been at Springfield UMC for nine years and really saw ourselves staying longer. He said he felt like God was leading him in this direction and asked me to pray about it with him. Like most local church pastors, I had never really envisioned myself in this role because I have found my ministry in the local church to be so meaningful. I did, however, feel that Bishop King had a different view of the role of the District Superintendent, with a strong emphasis on teaching and mentoring pastors. Susan and I prayed for some time about the opportunity and both felt that it was a door God had opened for us and was calling us to accept.
ADVOCATE: What are your visions and goals for the district?
DR. MARTIN: I think Bishop King put it best at the closing of Annual Conference, “Get Better.” My vision is for all of us to become better pastors who contribute to better leadership and more effective churches. I want to see pastors committed to personal and professional growth and churches committed to evangelism and missions.
ADVOCATE: What’s one challenge you see facing the Conference or District?
DR. MARTIN: Obviously in a rural District with shifting population bases and declining employment opportunities, there are many small churches that are struggling to stay vital, healthy, and growing. The simply reality of increased expenses to maintain a full-time pastor is challenging us to better equip part-time, bi-vocational pastors to be effective leaders in these churches.
ADVOCATE: What’s one thing that most excites you about the Statesboro District or the South Georgia Conference?
DR. MARTIN: I feel like there are significant changes being made in South Georgia to recruit and equip more effective leaders for the church. I am excited about the New and Revitalized Congregational Development program and the planting of new churches. In the Statesboro District, I am excited to work with churches and pastors that I believe desire to grow the Kingdom of God through the Church.
ADVOCATE: What do you like best about serving in the South Georgia Conference?
DR. MARTIN: It is home! I love small towns and rural Georgia and the people who call this home. I love the support we give to each other in our conference as we meet the challenges of serving the church. Finally, I am excited about Bishop King and his vision for ministry here.
ADVOCATE: How do you, in the midst of your busy schedule and your traveling, make time for your quiet time, prayer, and Bible study?
DR. MARTIN: I have to begin the day in prayer and Word or it doesn’t happen. As a pastor, I spent so much time preparing to preach and teach that I was in the Word often and constantly praying. But, to give God undivided attention has to happen for me early. I also find that driving is a good time for me to be quiet and listen.
ADVOCATE: What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies and interests?
DR. MARTIN: Unfortunately I’m not sure “free time” is a very operative word in my vocabulary, but when I carve out some time I enjoy playing golf, riding a bike, and watching sports. I enjoying reading and learning and usually have several books going. I am a part of the first S3 group in our Conference, and that experience has provided me with some of my richest time apart for fellowship and recreation.
ADVOCATE: Do you have any favorite sports teams/movies/books? Or is there something you can tell our readers that not many people know about you?
DR. MARTIN: I love all our local (Georgia) teams like the Braves, Hawks, Falcons, Georgia Tech, UGA, and GSU. I have a wide taste in movies and books. Lately I’ve been enjoying some books from the business world (“The Speed of Trust” and “How the Mighty Fall”). I think everyone should read “The World is Flat” to understand the changes and challenges we face in the world today.
As for anything about me, there is not much to say. I’m a simple guy that has a passion for Christ, the Church, and people, and am still amazed that God would call me to a position of servant leadership in the Kingdom.