Pastor’s wife finds her identity

By Karen Willoughby for UI Connections

JoEllen Claypool’s grandson, Ollie, loves reading her children’s books.

CALDWELL, Idaho – JoAnn Biesheuvel of Gillette, Wyoming, had no idea the life-changing difference her request would make for her daughter, pastor’s wife JoEllen Claypool.

It was a simple request – a poem about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas – for a cookie party Biesheuvel was planning. 

“I was a pastor’s wife and was homeschooling the two youngest of our seven children,” Claypool told UI Connections, including her husband Dallas Claypool in her statement. He is pastor of the rural Sand Hollow Baptist Church, a 20-minute drive west of Caldwell. “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 either her children or church work. “Maybe,” she thought, “I could be a writer, write fiction.”

Her mom’s request became Claypool’s first children’s book: The Battle for Christmas. To date she’s written 10 books, some using her own illustrations. All are self-published and available on Link to her Amazon page is here: JoEllen’s Amazon Store

She’s also 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.

JoEllen and Christopher standing behind a table display of her books

Claypool’s first book, titled A Realist’s Guide to Being a Pastor’s Wife, came out of her five-year frustration at 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 writes, 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.”

One more quote from Chapter 1A: “Let me make one thing clear; I do not have it all figured out. This is what I went through. This is what worked for me.”

Busy with motherhood, wifehood, pastor’s support and church worker, Claypool did little more than scratch out poetry for the next six years, until in writing the poem for her mom she realized she had just written her first children’s book.

She now is at work 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, readers learn to forgive, accept differences, and how boldness and kindness are important ingredients of forming new friendships. In Loyalty in Troy Valley, Pastor Joe teaches the trio (and readers) 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 book coaching, social media training, virtual assisting and private instruction for writing, publication and marketing. The group also hosts monthly coffee chats, writers’ conferences and writing contests.

“Understanding the impact one person can make, JoEllen is eager to reach out and encourage authors of all ages, assuring them that they have something valuable to offer through their words,” according to the website

At Sand Hollow Baptist, Claypool usually works with Kimbre Christopher, the small church’s treasurer. It’s a team Pastor Dallas Claypool says is “amazing.” People come to him after VBS each summer “and say how good it was, but it was the girls who did it all,” the pastor told UI Connections.

In addition to VBS and Children’s Church, there is Kids Club every Thursday evening, where about 15-20 youngsters from preschool through sixth grade learn that “Jesus loves you and so do we,” the church’s tag line.

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,” the pastor’s wife 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.” 

JoEllen and Dallas met in their seventh-grade typing class and were friends throughout high school but didn’t date. Nine years later, “We ran into each other at the store one day, ran out for coffee and the rest is history,” JoEllen Claypool said. Now married 27 years, they share seven children and the congregation of about 65.

“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.”

Karen L. Willoughby is a frequent contributor to UI Connections and Baptist Press. She can be reached at