When I was four years old, my family moved from Atlanta, Georgia, after my dad finished Georgia Tech, to Columbia, South Carolina, where he began his first engineering job. My parents had been raised in Baptist churches and when they arrived in Columbia, they begin visiting Baptist churches. They visited several before they stumbled upon Greenlawn Baptist. They eventually joined that church because the preacher could preach a very good sermon. Greenlawn was not the closest Baptist church to home, but, in their opinion, was the one with the best preacher.
At some point, Greenlawn begin to hire women to serve on staff, as ministers of education and youth and as minister of music. At first, the women were not ordained. Eventually, our church saw fit to ordain them. As a child I saw women help lead worship each week; women were in charge of important committees; and women were elected deacons. For much of my growing up years, two out of three ministers were women.
At the time, I thought that was how all churches did church—all roles were open for women’s leadership. Was I wrong!
While in high school, I was sent to Florida as a summer missionary. The church I served in was a wonderful church, but I quickly learned that in that church a woman had her place. It was okay for me to work with the children and teenagers and even to play the piano (horrors!) but to speak from behind the pulpit was not allowed. The only speaking I was allowed to do was to share my testimony of how I became a Christian.
Then when I attended college I discovered that many of the women who lived on my dorm hall had also been raised in Baptist churches, but their churches were very different from mine. They had difficulty understanding my call to ministry. While we shared many of the same beliefs, they could not accept me for who God had created me to be. During college, however, I did find a home at First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. The staff there welcomed me into their church and into their lives. The teachers of the college Sunday School accepted me (and my calling). The church nurtured my faith and encouraged me to continually seek God’s invitation for my life.
I write this brief testimony of my calling to ministry to challenge all Baptist women in ministry to find ways to support girls, teenagers, and young women who feel called to the ministry. I was lucky enough to find role models at my home church and during college, but many young girls and women do not have an encourager or mentor. I would not be where I am today without the many women (and men) who supported my calling.
Who do you know that God may be leading into ministry? How can you encourage them? You may never know the impact you may make on some young women’s life—but she will!
Christy McMillin-Goodwin is minister of education and missions at Oakland Baptist Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina.