The Reverend Courtney Clayton Jenkins
Senior Pastor and Teacher, South Euclid United Church of Christ
A visionary pastor and teacher representing a new generation of leaders, Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins serves as the Senior Pastor and Teacher of South Euclid United Church of Christ (formerly Euclid Avenue Congregational Church). At the age of 27, Rev. Jenkins made history when she became the first woman, first African American and the youngest pastor called to lead this special congregation. Since that day in 2010, Rev. Jenkins has led the multi-cultural, multi-generational congregation to become the vibrant church that it is today, but first she had to lead it out of the ashes.
Just six months before Rev. Jenkins was asked to serve, the historic church was struck by lightning and the architectural gem was completely destroyed by fire. With courage, the congregation called the young and dynamic “hip-hop” preacher to become their pastor to allow God to do “a new thing.”
That “new thing” happened to be nothing short of a transformation. Under Rev. Jenkins’ leadership, the congregation adopted a new strategic plan for revitalization and a clarified mission for outreach, which includes innovative ways to use technology to do God’s work. Now in a new building and with a new name, the church is experiencing exponential growth and a revived passion for serving humanity through ministry and mission. In the midst of a growing congregation, Rev. Jenkins oversaw an $8.15 million construction project for the campus in South Euclid.
Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Rev. Jenkins holds a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary with a concentration in Preaching and Congregational Ministry. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Spelman College.
In the United Church of Christ denomination, Rev. Jenkins is an ordained minister and serves in several capacities. Previously, she served as the Designated Pastor of Shaker Heights Community Church, United Church of Christ. She is the first woman to be ordained at the historic Mt. Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland Ohio.
Rev. Jenkins is Co-Founder of the Without Walls Ministry, a retreat designed to glorify God and edify women in ministry. She has served on numerous boards and committees of local and national ecumenical organizations. She has also worked intentionally on teaching and training for anti-racism and youth ministry programs, life-skills for low-income and incarcerated persons, dating anti-violence programs for young adults and African American history as a form of empowering and building community.
On April 5, 2018, Rev. Courtney Jenkins was inducted into the College of Pastoral Leadership at Morehouse College. The induction was held in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In June 2018, Rev. Jenkins realized a dream of hers when she first assumed the pastorate at Euclid Avenue Congregational Church in 2010 (now known as SEUCC). She announced the opening of a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School on the campus of South Euclid United Church of Christ in the summer of 2018. The six-week summer school program is designed to boost student motivation to read, generate positive attitudes toward learning, and connect children and families to the resources in their communities. Rev. Jenkins spear-headed the church effort to raise more than $85K to fund the school through member donations, church events and community sponsorships.
In May 2019, Rev. Jenkins completed the Duke University Convocation of Christian Leaders Program designed for emerging Christian leaders and their churches.
Long before the global pandemic of 2020, Rev. Jenkins had a vision for using technology to grow online presence as a means for worship, connection and membership at South Euclid United Church of Christ. Live streaming of services, online programming and a robust social media strategy were already in place when social distancing became a requirement for faith-based organizations. At a time when others were struggled to establish an online presence, Rev. Jenkins revved up the church’s online presence reaching new audiences and attracting new members from across the country.
Currently, she is participating in the Louisville Institute Program Pastors Working Together. Louisville Institute plans to convene a cohort of wise and exceptional pastoral leaders from across the United States for a season of sustained, in-depth conversation about their ministries and the future of the church. The Institute, funded by Lilly Endowment and based at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, seeks pastors and ministry leaders recognized for their openness to new learning, capacity for careful listening, creativity, and a propensity for asking good questions.
In 2019, Rev. Jenkins was appointed to the Board of Women in Ministry (WIM) Conference, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit organization that develops, coaches and mentors Christian women in ministry for the 21st Century. The conveners of the conference are passionate about the impact mentoring has on the lives of individuals, the communities they serve, and the organizations they transform. They are also motivated by the conviction that ministry is a vocation of public and social significance, and a calling worthy of nurturing the brightest and the very best for leadership. Since its inception in 2005, the WIM Conference, Inc. has served and worked with more than 1,000 women who impact inspire, and transform the lives of so many people across the nation.
Some of her other awards and honors include:
- Star Award presented by the Women of Color Foundation to a young professional woman who is making a difference in Northeastern Ohio.
- Cleveland Magazine selected Rev. Cory and Rev. Courtney as one of the “Most Interesting Couples.” and they were featured by Black Enterprise Magazine as a new paradigm for careers in faith.
- Alumnae Convocation Speaker at Spelman College.
- Recipient of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s “Making a Difference Award” given to young professionals making a difference in and around greater Cleveland.
Rev. Courtney Clayton Jenkins is married to her seminary sweetheart, Rev. Cory C. Jenkins. They travel the country as a team facilitating workshops and seminars on family stabilization. They have a young son named Caleb.
In the midst of ministry and motherhood, Rev. Jenkins managed to add writer to her growing list of accomplishments. She published her first book, Stepping Back To Step Up – A Six-Week Devotional to Recharge, Refresh and Refuel for women in ministry. As a Certified Leadership Coach with The John Maxwell Company, she also serves as a consultant to other congregations on vision casting, strategic planning and implementation, and leadership development.
Rev. Jenkins is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
Rev. Jenkins is committed to and humbled by God’s calling and purpose upon her life. As she joyfully leads her congregation in service to God, she continues to pursue discipleship well beyond its walls to find new ways for the next generation to impact this nation with God’s unconditional love and almighty power.