JoEllen Claypool had no idea a simple request from her mom to write holiday poems for a cookie party would spark a writing ministry that would change her life.
“I was a pastor’s wife and was homeschooling the two youngest of our seven children,” recalled Claypool, whose husband Dallas is pastor of Sand Hollow Baptist Church Caldwell, Idaho. “I wasn’t sure who I’d be when they were grown and gone.”
Over the years Claypool had started writing poetry in the few moments she wasn’t busy with her children or church work. “Maybe,” she thought, “I could be a writer, write fiction.”
Her mother’s request became Claypool’s first children’s book: “The Battle for Christmas.” To date she has written 10 books, some using her own illustrations. All are self-published and available at Amazon.com (JoEllen’s Amazon Store.)
‘What to expect’
Claypool also is a writing coach, book editor, ghostwriter and speaker. In addition, in 2016 she co-founded ICAN, the Idaho Creative Authors Network, with three friends. She serves the Sand Hollow congregation as volunteer church secretary, children’s minister and Sunday school teacher.
Claypool’s first book, “A Realist’s Guide to Being a Pastor’s Wife,” came out of her five-year frustration over not finding books that would help her manage her life, nurture her children, support her husband and serve the congregation, all while honoring God.
“My main purpose is to give women an idea of what to expect in this position … an idea of things they may encounter and how to deal with them,” Claypool writes in Chapter 1A, so titled, she says, because often people don’t read an introduction.
“I am — ok, I have become — very thankful for the opportunity God has given me and truly regret wasting five years trying to make the ministry all about me instead of Him,” Claypool writes. “Heaven forbid that we should admit we have a bad day once in a while or that we struggle with certain issues.”
Busy with motherhood, wifehood, pastor support and church work, Claypool said she did little more than scratch out poetry for the next six years, until in writing the poem for her mother she realized she had just written her first children’s book.
Claypool is now working on the fourth book in the “Triumphant Trio” series for 8- to 13-year-olds. In “Truth in Troy Valley,” readers learn to face fears, build character and form bonds. In “Faith in Troy Valley” they learn to forgive and accept differences, and how boldness and kindness are important in forming new friendships. In “Loyalty in Troy Valley,” they learn about the armor of God and the importance of being prepared at all times.
Putting words on paper is only one aspect of Claypool’s writing ministry. ICAN offers coaching, social media training, virtual assisting and private instruction for writing, publication and marketing. The group also hosts monthly coffee chats, writers’ conferences and contests.
Talents ‘He has knit into me’
In addition to VBS and children’s church, Sand Hollow Baptist hosts Kids Club every Thursday evening, where 15–20 children from preschool through sixth grade learn that “Jesus loves you and so do we,” the church’s tagline.
After witnessing how many adults were uncomfortable praying in public, “Teaching kids from the earliest of ages to pray out loud has been a major focus and we have seen the fruit of that,” Claypool said. “When we ask for someone to open in prayer, eager hands wave about hoping to be the one chosen to pray.
“Our church kids are involved in every aspect of the church’s ministry, from praying over and collecting the Sunday offering to completing tasks assigned to them on our Atlanta [Idaho] mission trip or local missions,” Claypool continued. “We know they are the future of this church. Most of these kids have grown up in this church and my husband is the only pastor they have ever known.”
“I am so glad I serve a God who truly sees us,” Claypool said, referring to Genesis 16:13. “He has trusted me with tasks inside the church body yet has also allowed me to use the talents He has knit into me, using my writing to build connections with others in the writing community.”