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A New Playbook for Motherhood and Ministry

Kathy Cannon, a lead pastor and mother of five, is seeing God bring growth to a church replant in the San Francisco Bay area.

Kathy Kerfoot Cannon didn’t know what the playbook looked like for a mother of five to lead pastor a church plant. After God led to her to replant Sacred Church in the San Francisco Bay area, she decided to write it.

Born in rural Appalachia to retired Assemblies of God pastor Rick Kerfoot, Cannon knew all about vocational ministry. Her mother’s father and dad’s grandfather also served as AG pastors.

“Being involved in ministry is something we do, and it’s very normalized in my family,” says Cannon, 38. “We didn’t grow up just attending church.”

Called to ministry at age 11, Cannon attended Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, meeting her husband, Ben, at first-year orientation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology in 2002.

In 2005, Cannon met Ben’s uncle Scott Hagan at a family wedding. Hagan, current North Central University president, had just moved to Sacramento, California, to plant Real Life Church. After an email discussion with Kathy, Hagan invited the Cannons to fly to California to visit the church.

“We had some best-case scenario/worse-case scenario discussion where if this didn’t work out, we would not just have to avoid each other at district council, we’d have to avoid each other at Thanksgiving,” she says. “We realized at that point it was a calculated risk, but it also felt God-ordained.”

Cannon joined the staff at Real Life in 2005. She says Hagan gave her the opportunity to lead in many different capacities during her eight-plus years as executive pastor. Cannon also began working with the Church Multiplication Network for Launch Training events for church planting teams.

During this time, Kathy and Ben struggled with infertility. In 2009, the Cannons became certified foster-to-adopt candidates. A year later, a Christian social worker connected them with three African-American siblings who needed a family.

The Cannons brought home Jada, now 13, Jaeshawn, 12, and Jarron, 11, in 2010. In 2012, a set of African American/Latino siblings, Asja, now 10, and Ari, 9, joined the family. In two and a half years, they went from zero to five children. Ben, a graphic designer, initially stayed home with the children.

“We deal with strengths and we deal with struggles because of early childhood situations,” Cannon says. “On many days, parenting is harder than pastoring, but it is obviously rewarding and worth it.”

In 2013, Cannon spoke with Hagan about sending her résumé out to churches for a lead pastor position. Hagan couldn’t find a prototype for a woman pastor with five children seeking such a post.

In 2014, Samuel Huddleston, assistant superintendent for Northern California/Nevada District, asked Cannon if she would be interested in taking over a small, struggling church in the San Francisco Bay area. Cannon accepted the position with overwhelming support from the remaining congregants.

Her church replanting process looked a lot like parenting adopted kids from a traumatic situation. Sacred Church formally relaunched on Easter 2015. The congregation is ethnically diverse, with many first-generation immigrants. The area’s cost of living is among the highest in the U.S.

Huddleston commends Cannon for managing her many roles in life well.

“She has a dream and a vision,” Huddleston says. “She knows where she wants to go. Not everyone can do that, because not everyone can manage their time, but she manages her time well, and she’s not afraid to speak up.”

While Cannon pastors a growing church and partners with Ben to raise their five children, she also works at the national, district, and local level to equip others, especially women, called to ministry leadership.

This year, Cannon became the Moen Chair for Pentecostal Preaching from North Central University in Minneapolis. She is speaking at campus chapels, guest lecturing in classes, and building relationships with students at the university during the fall semester.

Cannon says women called to ministry must see an example of female-led ministry so they can recognize their own calling. She leads both a physical and virtual group to help ministers develop preaching and communication skills.

“If we believe the Bible’s statement that the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few, we must advocate for every person with the call of God on their life to recognize it,” she says. “One of the best ways to get people to recognize the call is to show them what it could look like.”

Photo: The Cannon family now consists of (from left) Jaeshawn, Jarron, Kathy, Ari, Asja, Jada, and Ben. 

Rachel Ellis

Rachel Ellis resides in the mountains of West Virginia with her husband, Michael, and two children. She is a graduate of Evangel University and a licensed AG minister, as is her husband. Ellis works as a freelance journalist and artist, and she enjoys helping the people of God tell his story of redemption through the power of the written Word.