Community minded: Butlers mark 40 years of ministry in Carroll County
For the past 40 years, Pastor Keith Butler and his wife, Carol, have served the community through their leadership at Church on the Hill in Berryville. Keith is a graduate of Green Forest High School, and he met Carol when he was going to school in Springfield, Mo.
Carol was working at the National Assembly of God office headquarters when they met. She remembered getting together, breaking up and getting back together again.
“And then I knew we were going to get married, so we got engaged in April and married in June,” Carol said. “I became a pastor’s wife the same day I got married. We’ve been pastoring for 50 years. This is our 40th year in Carroll County.”
When he returned home from school breaks, Keith said, he pastored at a church in Green Forest. He was pastoring in Idaho when he got the call to serve as pastor at Church on the Hill. He and Carol moved to Carroll County in March 1980, Keith said. At that time, Keith said, the church was located at 112 Fancher St., by Garner’s Drive-In.
Carol remembered when Keith got the call to come to Carroll County.
“One day, my husband came in saying he thought a good church could be built in Berryville, Arkansas,” Carol said. “I was stunned to say the least and about a day later, I got a call from Berryville from a man who lived here and he wanted to speak with Keith about coming to church.”
Carol continued, “I was astonished. It was like the Lord had already spoken to my husband and then we got the call and came here soon after that.”
They moved to Berryville with their son Craig and daughter Krista.
“Our third little surprise was born while we were here in Berryville,” Carol said. “His name is Kent Butler. He’s involved with the Passion Play and he’s also our kids pastor. His wife, Mallory, serves with us.”
Indeed, Church on the Hill is a family affair. Carol said she considers everyone at the church her family and Keith agreed.
“They have a wonderful outlook for community involvement and it’s a good family atmosphere here at the church,” Keith said. “They’re very open to individuals to be part of their life and have them be part of church life.”
“And they also love children,” Carol said.
Her favorite part of the church, Carol said, is the Promise Kids Choir. The choir started in the early 1980s, she said, and is still going strong today.
“I grew up in small churches and I determined that as a pastor’s wife, I wanted the kids in our church to enjoy a kids choir that mainly was in larger churches in cities,” Carol said. “My daughter-in-law Mallory is the current leader of the choir. I handed it over to her after I retired, and she is doing a wonderful job leading it.”
All their children were in the Promise Kids Choir, Carol said.
“That’s an especially good memory,” Carol said.
Carol remembered when the church moved to its current location at 907 S. Main St. in Berryville, saying it was heartwarming to burn the mortgage once it was paid off.
“The property and the building at that time was debt-free,” Carol said. “You don’t hear that often.”
The key to being debt free, Keith said, is operating frugally and embracing the community.
“We just had a lot of people that participated with great interest. We did a lot of work on the buildings ourselves as volunteers and tried to keep our expenses down as much as possible,” Butler said. “We are extremely blessed to be able to become debt-free and have this kind of facility.”
Keith said he loves how the church gives back to the community, saying the church offered a free meal to the community on Wednesday nights before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He said he hopes the church will get back to hosting the Wednesday night meals sometime next year. COVID-19 has forced everyone to live outside their comfort zones, Keith said.
“We’ve been focusing more online and Facebook live,” Keith said. “We broadcast live on KTHS every Sunday morning, which seems to be really helping fill a need in the community and we’re pleased with that. The feedback I’m getting from the radio program has been very positive.”
Jon Phillips, a board member at Church on the Hill, said he’s thankful for all Keith and Carol have done for the community.
“They’ve married a lot of people. They’ve buried a lot of people,” Phillips said. “Babies have been dedicated and they’ve seen generation after generation of families come and go.”
Phillips added, “It’s important to have people like pastors Keith and Carol that are involved in people’s lives. When people are sick at the hospital, they’ll go several times to see them. People like to have their pastor there when they’re sick. They’ve very good at consoling.”
Fellow board member Ken McCaulla agreed, saying Keith is a really good preacher.
“He knows the Bible real well. He and Carol both are very hard workers,” McCaulla said. “They’re big encouragers, encouraging people to get involved in the different outreaches of the church. I’ve been working with that ministry since 1999 and it’s a good outreach to all the age groups in the community.”
Carol said she appreciates Keith’s approach to the Lord’s word.
“His goal is to preach practical messages that people can apply to their lives and he’s never been moved by fads or trends or whatever’s going on in the church world,” Carol said. “He’s always had a vision himself about that and he hasn’t been pulled in directions that he didn’t feel like was good for our church to go. He’s a very practical minister of the word.”
Keith thanked everyone for supporting his family over the years. If there’s any message he has for the community, Keith said, it’s to believe in the Lord.
“Keep hope in the Lord,” Keith said. “Read His word. Believe it and live it.”