It seems like Rev. Sam Burton of Southaven First United Methodist Church was just made to be a pastor.
“I love to preach,” Burton said. “I love to preach and I love to teach. Those give me the greatest pleasure of all. The connections, the preaching and just getting to know the people.”
But, Burton believes he was also called to be in the ministry, despite an initial desire to be involved in forestry and wildlife preservation, as he had planned to major in while in college.
Burton heard the call of God to go into youth ministry while a teenager and later discovered his mother had promised God before his birth that she would give him back to service if she and her husband were given a son after two daughters had already been born.
“She prayed, ‘My father-in-law would love to have a namesake and my husband would like to have a son, so if you would give me a son, I would give him back to you,’” Burton said. “‘To be used anyway You feel like he needs to be used. I give him to You if you would give me a son,’” Burton said his mother prayed. “I feel like I am a modern-day Samuel, my mom was Hannah and she gave me to God.”
Burton continued that his mother wanted to be sure that it was God’s plan and not hers, so she spent years not disclosing the prayer until Burton said he was urged to go into youth ministry, which he did.
After starting as a youth pastor in 1985, Burton took the step to enter Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky and entered full-time ministry in 2001.
Southaven First United Methodist Church is the sixth church Burton has served. He may be the only full-time employed person on the church’s payroll, but Burton credits a hard-working group of people who contribute to the growth of Southaven First.
Part of the offerings provided by the church is a strong pre-school and daycare program, a carryover from the church’s original Bunker Hill Drive location from 1961-2012. The current building at 723 Star Landing Road East stands on 10 acres of land in what is expected to be a growing part of the Southaven community.
Burton said he has seen growth in Southaven First since his arrival from Clarksdale in 2015. He especially enjoys the connections he has made with parishioners, making sure they know when he is in the office.
“I always park in the same place and people in the church, if they are driving by, I love it when they stop by just to visit,” Burton said. “I love it when members of the church call me up and want to have me over for lunch and eat together.”
Burton said one of the attractions of a church such as Southaven First is in its style of worship, which he terms as “relaxed traditional.”
“Nothing against contemporary services, because they serve their purpose,” Burton said. “We’re very relaxed and we laugh a lot. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve had such a good response from people.”
More than 500 members call Southaven First their church home. Between 90-100 worship there on a weekly basis.
Visitors will quickly notice the stained glass windows at the front of the sanctuary, windows that were taken to the new location from the original Bunker Hill location.
Visitors will also notice the strong programs for children and youth, steeped in the history for pre-school and daycare programs established in the former facility, as well.
Wednesday night Bible studies, a men’s club breakfast, and other activities are also provided, of which more information is available on the church’s website, southavenfirstumc.org.
“Everywhere I’ve been, God has blessed me with growth,” Burton said. “I’ve had ministry blessings and growth wherever I’ve been. God has been so good.”
Burton’s ministry can be traced back to a promise a woman made to God and Burton hearing and acting on the call of God to enter the ministry field.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.