Tom Troth

Frankfort pastor leads well as lobbyist for KBC

By Chip Hutcheson

Published: September 1, 2019

FRANKFORT—For one Kentucky Baptist, leading well is evidenced in his role not just as a pastor, but as a lobbyist in Frankfort.

For the past 26 years, Tom Troth has pastored Hillcrest Baptist Church in this state's capital city. Then in 2015, he added another responsibility, working with state legislators to convey the sentiments of Kentucky Baptists on major issues facing the commonwealth and its citizens.

Troth, however, doesn't fit the stereotype many people have of a lobbyist. He prefers a low-key approach, providing information to lawmakers so they will know how Kentucky Baptists feel on issues such as life, foster care and adoption as well as gambling.

Employing a non-combative approach, Troth says he tries "to talk to them as people, and tell them what we think on an issue and why we think that way."

And just as he does as a pastor, he looks for ways to build relationships.

Chip Hutcheson

Because of an extensive background in state government, Troth is well-acquainted with veteran legislators. When an election results in a newcomer to the legislature, Troth is diligent to meet them—whether in their offices, on the floor or in the hallways or cafeteria.

"I try to relate to legislators — they are people like us," Troth said. "Romans tells us that God has placed them in positions of authority. Because I worked with them so long, I think I can relate to them as people — not as Democrats or Republicans, but as people. We fly the banner of Christ, of the cross, not of an elephant or a donkey.

"I try to explain to them what our issues are, what we are concerned about. By and large, the greater percentage of legislators, if they are affiliated with a particular denomination, are interested in what we say. They may not agree with us, but they do listen."

When the legislature is in regular session, a normal day will find him meeting with legislators to discuss issues that are of interest to Kentucky Baptists. He will find what legislators are assigned to various committees, then talk with those members and the committee chairperson about key issues that concern Kentucky Baptists. He says the response to a KBC lobbying effort has been "very positive."

He also tracks all bills introduced, reviewing them to determine their impact on Kentucky Baptists. Also, he provides a weekly report to the KBC's Public Affairs Committee.

Troth's background makes him ideally suited to represent Kentucky Baptist Convention churches in Frankfort. After graduating with music degrees from Eastern Kentucky University, he attended law school at the University of Kentucky. Even though he had felt a call to ministry when graduating from high school, it wasn't until his law school days that God began working in his heart about ministry, leading him to serve five years as minister of music at Trinity Baptist in Lexington.

After completing law school, his first government job was as general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. After four years, he left there and entered private practice in Cynthiana. Five years later, he returned to Frankfort to take a position with the Legislative Research Commission. "I did a lot of things there, working with four or five committees." While working for the LRC, a co-worker was also chairman of deacons at Hillcrest, and told Troth that the church was seeking a pastor. "I was looking for a church," so in 1993 Troth was called as its pastor.

In 2002, Troth was asked to be LRC's assistant director for the legislative process, then was promoted to deputy director, a position he held until retiring in 2008.

That experience with the LRC has proven to be invaluable in working for legislators on public policy issues that are significant to Kentucky Baptists, and Troth said the Lord has been faithful to bless with "huge progress" on issues such as life. "Since I've had the good fortune of lobbying, the issue of life has advanced incredibly beyond my wildest dreams. The Lord has been gracious," Troth said.

While crediting the Lord with progress made and deflecting it from himself, Troth pointed out to significant advances on the issue of foster care and adoption. "A lot of credit goes to Rep. David Meade, who took this on as a calling to simplify and streamline adoption procedures and processes. He, as well as Gov. (Matt) Bevin, wants to make us a more friendly state toward foster care and adoption."

For more than the past decade, Kentucky Baptists have staunchly opposed efforts to allow casino gambling, and Troth will continue to advocate against legalized gambling in the state.

As the first-ever lobbyist for Kentucky Baptists, Troth has not let that role deter him from his work as a pastor.

He is quick to say his No. 1 priority is to God, then family and not the legislative work. "What I do here (at Hillcrest) is the most significant thing."

Troth is a strong proponent of the Cooperative Program. He notes that he didn't grow up in a Baptist church, but says, "When I saw what Baptists were doing cooperatively with missions, I thought 'this is it.'

"Giving here has multiplied. We give 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, 2 percent to the Franklin Baptist Association, and we give another percentage to a local Haitian missionary and a percentage to a Hispanic congregation."

And outreach—especially for children — is a major emphasis.

"We do a lot of things for a church our size. We have an after-school program at Westridge Elementary," which is across the street from the church. The school was built during Troth's tenure at Hillcrest.

"We felt the Lord put that school here for us to minister to them. We started with the faculty, then we started 'KiDs Beach Club,' and I think we were the first Baptist church in the state to do that. It's big in Texas and Florida. It's like a mini-Vacation Bible School that we do at the school. One day a week, after school, we help the students memorize Bible verses, we have music, teach a lesson and have a snack. At the end of the day we allow them into a 'treasure chest.'

"We have had families come to Christ, we have had children baptized as a result. Reaching out to the faculty provided the opportunity to minister to children.

"We've been doing it for six years now—we have about 35 kids involved and we average eight to 10 volunteers." In each KiDs Beach Club across the country, there is a 'Great Treasure Day' which features a KiDs Beach Club Study Bible given to every child who has not yet received one.

Troth's model of leading well is evident in the people impacted by his ministry—whether they are children or those in the seats of power in state government.