THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Amy Stertz

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Amy Stertz.

Tell us about your current ministry position.
I serve as the associate minister in Christian education at Aiken’s First Baptist Church in Aiken, South Carolina. I’ve been here for seven and a half years, working with people of all ages and stages of life in all different parts of the church. My primary areas of focus are education ministries and missions. I also work with our Stephen Ministry, serve as a liaison with many committees (Strategic Planning, Nominating, Stewardship), and coordinate a chapel service for our weekday preschool. Because of my job, I’ve also had the opportunity to serve in the community and state with partnership organizations like Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina and Habitat for Humanity.

Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?
My parents started me on my faith journey, brought me to church every week, and taught me what it meant to be Baptist and to belong to a church. So many people in the churches that I was a part of growing up showed me love and grace on a regular basis and taught me what in meant to be a part of a community of faith. I have met some great mentors and cheerleaders along the way; people who really believed in me and pushed me to be my best. I hesitate to name any names but have to say how fortunate I was to cross paths with Paula Dempsey, Craig Goforth, Kenneth McNeill, Pam Durso, Marion Aldridge, and Fred Andrea at just the right time. I have worked with some of the best colleagues, I’m particularly grateful to have worked alongside Mary Carol Anderson, James Bennett, and Jay Kieve who are thoughtful, creative, and fun. I am beyond grateful for my husband, Joe, who is my biggest fan and who has always affirmed my gifts for ministry, even when I lose sight of them myself.

What do you love best about ministry?
My favorite thing about ministry is the relationships. I love getting to know people, hearing their stories, getting to walk with them through their joys and sorrows. I love helping people connect and deepen their relationships with others and with God. It is a beautiful and holy thing!

What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?
Before I offer any advice could I offer a hug and say, “How exciting?!” A call to ministry is something to be celebrated and nurtured. My advice would be to surround yourself with people who know and affirm you and your calling. There are a lot of people who won’t ‘get’ what you are doing and maybe even some who won’t agree with it. But there are oh so many who will, keep those close! I am grateful for a wonderful pastor/mentor who helped introduce me to the life of ministry and pointed me toward a seminary that supported women in ministry. I am grateful for Campbell University Divinity School, where I was equal with my male classmates and taking preaching wasn’t an option. I am grateful for churches like Azalea Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia, and Aiken’s First Baptist Church, that have invited me to serve as minister on their church staff, invited me to preach from their pulpits, and helped me grow as a minister. I am grateful for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, especially the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina, a place where I truly found home and family. I am grateful for fellow ministers who encourage me, challenge me, support me, and walk with me, especially those in my peer learning group. These friends, colleagues, churches, and organizations have helped me in the continual process of discovering, affirming, and nurturing my call. Build a strong network. It will serve you well!

Ministry Manners: Extending Hospitality to Guest Ministers

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God” (3 John 1:5-6, NIV).

Greetings from Durban, South Africa and the Baptist World Congress in Durban! It is winter here, yet a beautiful and warm day as the sun beams brightly over the Indian Ocean.

While visiting this sacred land, I have been overwhelmed by the rhythmic sounds, African cuisines, beautiful beaches, exotic foliage, and the gracious hospitality extended to Congress guests.

The idea of ancestry and hospitality are very crucial in Africa. For example, Julius Mutugi Gathogo states:

“the Fang of Gabon believe that an ancestor passes by in the person of a stranger and, therefore, a stranger should be given a very kind and warm treatment. Similarly, the Bulsa treat strangers, orphaned, handicapped people, beggars and lepers very well because of their belief that their ancestors visit them in these forms. Generally, in most African communities, it is believed that unexpected guests are the embodiment of ancestors; hence, they are given the ancestors food. In such hospitality, it means communing with ancestors through such impromptu services to guests, hence, maintaining a relationship through the practice of hospitality.”

Paul spoke frequently about extending hospitality towards preachers. As Ralph Gower states, “It was particularly important for preachers of the time who had given up their livelihood so that they could preach the gospel. They were to be given hospitality for several days, and then encouraged to move on to another place. One could not be recognized as a leader in the church unless one was hospitable.”

Hospitality is a vital part of the preaching ministry and can reflect an eclectic range of ministry service. William H. Willimon defines hospitality as, “the ability to pay attention to the guest.” I can’t tell you how many times I spoke at a church and was not clear on where or to whom I should to report once I arrived. On one occasion, I traveled 400 miles out of the way because my host provided incorrect information about the location.

Preaching hospitality might involve shaking hands with persons in the pews before preaching, providing a bottle of water for the guest preacher behind the pulpit stand, ensuring greeters are in place to welcome all guest, or being a gracious host and guest.

As we extend hospitality to guest preachers, here are a few suggestions a host church might consider:

Communication

  • Extend a clear invitation to your guest.
  • Explain the context of the event or service.
  • In some contexts, addressing dress/attire may be helpful.

Parking

  • Let your guests know where to park.
  • It may be helpful to have someone greet guests in the parking lot, especially if your church is larger.

Travel

  • The host church or institution is responsible for the minister’s travel.
  • Either the host or the guest can make the travel arrangements.
  • Travel arrangements made by the guest are to be reimbursed on the date of the speaking engagement.

Meals

  • It is always proper to offer to feed your guests during their visit.
  • If you will serve meals, find out if your guest(s) have any food allergies and/or preferences.
  • Consider drafting a Hospitality Form to send to your guests. This form should ask for travel and hotel preferences; food allergies and food preferences; beverage preferences before, during and after speaking; whether or not your guest will stay for lunch, will they have guests or bring ministry materials—books, CDs, etc.

Honoraria

  • Address the honorarium (if there is one) during the invitation phase.
  • Provide a fair honorarium to your guest preacher based on the time, travel, and credentials of your speaker.
  • It is best to present the check to the guest preacher once the service has been rendered.

A Word of Thanks

  • Be sure to thank your guests for their time.
  • It is also good manners for the guest to express words of gratitude for the invitation and any hospitality that was offered.

As the New Testament teaches us,”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

C. Lynn Brinkley serves as the director of student services and alumni relations at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. Lynn is also an adjunct professor at Campbell and an ordained minister at First Baptist Church in Clinton. For more information about proper attire in the pulpit, check out Lynn’s new book: Manners & Money: A Manual on Preaching Etiquette.

Sometimes Ministry Means . . . by Karen Zimmerman

About a year ago, I moved into Wieuca Road Baptist Church’s Friendship Home. As the house manager, I welcome families to stay with us during the most traumatic times of their lives—when someone they love is hospitalized in the metro Atlanta area. Last month, we had guests from Nicaragua at the house. Edelmira accompanied her twenty-four-year-old son to Atlanta, where he was to have a surgical procedure to correct a heart defect. Her son, Edgar, never recovered from the surgery and passed away on July 3, 2015.

Tuesday morning I was running late, like usual, to a very important gathering, and as I walked into the 1 West ICU hallway of Piedmont Hospital, everyone turned and stared at me. Unlike most everyone else, I wasn’t wearing scrubs. I made my way over to Edelmira and gave her a quick hug.

The memorial service started soon after I arrived. A chaplain welcomed us and thanked us all for being part of Edgar’s life. The chaplain then read a few verses from Isaiah and talked about how Edgar had finally mounted up on wings as an eagle. He reassured us that Edgar was in a better place—finally able to run and soar—he was finally free from the body that had brought him so much agony. We sang “Amazing Grace.” A few people offered some reflections. An amazing man stood next to Edelmira and translated the service for her. It was the first time I had seen Edelmira cry in the three weeks that she’s stayed at the Friendship Home.

Edgar’s doctor was standing behind Edelmira, and he patted her on the shoulder and whispered to her, “We gave it our all.” She responded in Spanish, “Yo se.” “I know.”

Sometimes ministry means showing up for impromptu memorial services and standing with nurses and doctors in an ICU ward. Sometimes ministry means treating grieving mothers to froyo, sitting outside with them and watching the city pass by. Sometimes ministry means fumbling through years of neglected Spanish to try to offer comforting words. Sometimes ministry takes you on a midnight drive to see the city lights one last time with your new friend before she returns home to Nicaragua. But always, always ministry means relationships, and relationships often bring grief.

Relationships that are open, honest, and raw minister to us. When Edelmira opened her heart up to me, I started to see the world a bit differently. I was encouraged by her faith, reminded that God is our strength–a very real and tangible refuge in times of deepest trouble. Sitting on the front steps of Friendship House, I learned from her a bit about what it is like to raise nine kids during a civil war.

Edelmira ministered to me through her presence in this house and through her testimony of faith, devotion, and sacrifice. I am happy that she has returned to her family but grieved that she had to leave her son’s body here (temporarily), and I am so thankful for the briefest opportunity to know her—a strong, gentle woman with such formidable faith.

Que Dios la bendiga.

 

Karen Zimmerman is associate pastor for missions and community ministry at Peachtree Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

God of new beginnings, grant us the courage to listen and respond to your call. Help us understand that this might mean stepping out of the familiar and into the unknown.

Amen.

-Karen Gilbert

Psalm 84: How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place by Katrina Brooks

“How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of heavenly forces! My very being longs, even yearns, for the Lord’s courtyards. My heart and my body will rejoice out loud to the living God.” Psalm 84:1-2

“Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else.” Psalm 84:10a

These verses have inspired countless worship songs. As I read the words, melodies play in my head and I find myself singing. The words invite me into worship and I find myself dancing as I seek communion with the Sacred Other.

Using pilgrim imagery, the writer speaks of Jerusalem, God’s throne on earth. The psalmist recalls the splendor of the Temple and invites the reader to tarry in the magnificence of it all. Israel has been longing, even yearning since Jerusalem’s destruction. Remembering “glory days” infuses hope into the present journey as listeners imagine a day when all is once again right and Jerusalem is restored.

As pilgrims we long to be a part of an age where God is at work. We want to have epiphanies and benchmark theophany. We desire God’s kingdom to be at hand and we desperately seek to be God’s hands and feet. More than anything we want our lives to be God’s throne on earth, a temple for the Sacred Other. We want the “glory days” to inspire us to be bold and courageous as we infuse hope into the present journey.

I don’t think it is coincidental that this psalm begins with worship. As we lose ourselves in worship, the Sacred Other calls us to justice and restoration as we imagine a day when all is once again right and “Jerusalem” is restored. Fueled by our worship we act, bringing our longing, even our yearning, to fruition as God Kingdom comes on earth.

Katrina Stipe Brooks is a campus pastor at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia, and youth pastor at Madison Heights Baptist Church, Madison Heights Virginia. A mother of two incredible young adults and spouse of a Baptist General Association of Virginia field strategist and Sunday School specialist, Katrina is senior pastor of InFaith Community, a multi-cultural church that meets on the Lynchburg College campus. One day she will publish all the stories she has to tell, but right now she has to complete the registration process for her first semester as a D.Min. student at McAfee School of Theology.

THIS IS WHAT A MINISTER LOOKS LIKE: Sarah Miller

Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a fabulous minister, and today we are so pleased to introduce Sarah Miller. 

Sarah, tell us about your current ministry role?

I am a hospice chaplain for SouthernCare Hospice in Waco, Texas. My office is in Waco, but my patients are anywhere within sixty miles of my office. I see patients in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and private homes.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?

I decided to really pursue this ministry five years ago. I didn’t have a seminary degree or enough CPE units to become a chaplain, so I had to start from scratch. I began another unit of CPE and enrolled in seminary. I got pregnant during my second CPE unit and was pregnant when I completed my first semester of seminary. My son, Caleb, was born during the middle of my second semester at Truett. Having a newborn and taking graduate level classes was tough!

When I think about challenges, I would have to say that my major ones have been with balancing motherhood and call. I absolutely know that I have been called to be a chaplain. Doing CPE units and going to seminary were necessary for me to live into this call. I also know that I am called to be Caleb’s mommy. It can be a struggle to do both well. I started a CPE residency ten days after graduation from Truett but dropped out five months later. I loved the learning component of CPE but HATED being away from Caleb so much. I prayed long and hard about whether I should stick it out or quit.

I am so thankful God provided this hospice position so that I could leave the residency. In my new role, I am able to set my own hours and have plenty of time with Caleb. I have breakfast with Seth (my sweet husband) and Caleb seven mornings a week. I pick Caleb up from school each day. I also take Caleb to visit patients if I have calls on the weekends. (My patients LOVE him!) This situation is a much better fit for this season of my life. Caleb is only going to be little for a short time!

I think the other challenge of ministry currently is that I’m a spunky, short female. I have a naturally bubbly personality, and I’m a high energy person. I work in lots of rural areas with patients who have never seen a woman minister. I have had to be very intentional how I relate to a few patients. I have one patient right now who will let me pray for him just so long as I don’t pray out loud. (I can pray in my head I guess!) I have a few others who have requested to be visited by the older, male chaplain. They don’t think it is right for a woman to be in this role. I never argue or try to prove my worth, but sometimes internally I want to scream.

Another challenge is that I look younger than I am. I get loads of comments about how I must be a Baylor intern (I’m 35 for the record). I also have patients who assume that I’m the social worker, even after I say to them several times that I’m Chaplain Sarah. I think ten years ago I would have been frustrated by these challenges, but now I just smile and move on to the next patient.

What do you love best about your ministry position?

OH this is SUCH a hard question!!! I LOVE so much about this position. I absolutely love that I get to walk with people at the end of life. I love that families allow me into their sacred space at a time when most people want to leave. I love that the ministry of presence is often the most needed thing. I feel grateful that I am able to hold hands with those who are dying and then hold hands with their loved ones after the loss. I do all of the bereavement care for this office so I spend lots of time in the days and weeks after a death with the family. I enjoy helping them navigate their ‘new normal’. I also love working on a hospice team with people who are so committed to giving each patient the most beautiful death possible. I also love that I can minister to people from all faiths and those who choose without it too.

 What is the best ministry advice you have ever received? 

I think of the words given to me by older women regarding ministry. One said “Sarah, your family is important, and Caleb is only going to be a kid for a window of time so prioritize your family and your ministry will be okay.” Her words give me a sense of peace, because often I feel like I have to minister all the time to every patient, and the truth is that my family needs me too! I get stuck in thinking that I can be all things to all people. Her advice made my soul feel free.

The second piece of advice was this: “You can do this. God created you for such a time as this. God has given you all of the gifts you need so GO DO IT!” I can compare myself to others and feel like someone else would be better. Ministry is a beautiful thing, but it sometimes feels like only spiritual giants were really cut out for this gig. This idea that God created Sarah Miller and gave her the gifts for such a time as this has been incredible for me. My professors often reminded us that God is already at work, and we just need to join in that work. This advice gives me room to sit down and breathe. Things are going to be okay, even if I’m not there to handle every detail.

Finding a Ministry Position, Part 5: Knowing the Questions by Pam Durso

So you have made it . . . there you sit in front of your computer screen, Skyping with a church committee, excited to finally have arrived at what you are sure is the perfect position for you. You are ready to take this new role on. You are feeling fabulous–confident, self-assured, prepared.

But then the questions start coming. Every member of the committee throws at a hardball question at you, and these are questions you haven’t even thought about. Your hour-long interview ends with you drenched in sweat. You stare at the blank screen, trying hard not to cry or scream, knowing that you may have completely blown this one, wondering if they are still taking applications at your favorite Starbucks.

Interviewing  . . . that final step to securing a position can be stressful. Knowing what to expect helps, and whether your interview is online or in person, preparing is so important. Thinking through the questions that might be asked, organizing your answers, practicing your answers out loud, setting up mock-interviews, and having some questions of your own to ask are just some of the ways you can get ready. So prepare!

To help with this process, Baptist Women in Ministry has interviewingl resources. We have collected questions used by several churches during their recent searches. While the questions might not address the position for which you are interviewing, you can get ideas about what might be asked, what you can expect.

Take time to think through the questions. Jot down your responses and refine your replies. Read your notes out loud. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to pose the questions to you. Excellent interviewing skills are developed and can be developed, and excellent interviews often result in the much-desired job offer.

Would love to hear about your interview experiences–what worked, what didn’t, what you have learned!

Pam Durso is the executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Minister by Irene Bennett

As newlyweds, my husband and I enjoyed ministering together. I directed one of the last two-week Vacation Bible Schools in Southern Baptist history and soon became the director of our church’s weekday school. Phil and I both volunteered in Sunday School. One Sunday morning our pastor announced “Irene’s husband will preach.” He never said Phil’s name. We still laugh about his unintentionally reversing my traditional role of “Mrs. Phil” to Phil’s new one, “Mr. Irene.”

Soon a seminary church offered us both ministry positions. The Baptist publishing house enlisted us to lead a summer pilot project and produce their first day camp curriculum. In the project, Phil supervised me, but we designed and wrote the materials together. Then the seminary asked us to be teaching fellows. Phil enjoyed telling people, “I’m a fellow married to a fellow.” All three entities gave us equal status and pay.

Upon graduation, the seminary “floated” my resume with my husband’s, but I doubt that anyone imagined that I might find a position and my husband follow me. So, by default, my ministry became adjunct to Phil’s. Even though we had the same training and experience in educational ministry, larger churches and organizations called him and paid him more. Each time he changed jobs; I dutifully moved and found a new position. We had separate ministries in Tennessee, New Mexico, Florida, and Georgia, but we also supported each other’s work.

Once in Phil’s church, I served as a department director. In a meeting, Phil and I pleasantly disagreed about how to solve some problem. A church member complained, not that volunteers should not disagree with ministers in public, but that wives should not disagree with husbands. On another occasion, my election as leader of the Baptist religious education association was reported in the newspaper. A church member asked, “How can you agree to be president of that organization before your husband is?” We were both ministers, but disregarding our gifts and personalities, people expected me to defer to my husband professionally. In contrast, Phil called himself the “First Gentleman” and assumed the role.

In Georgia we served in different churches for twenty-two years. Phil worked with one large church, and I with several medium-sized churches. We often met for working lunches as co-consultants, so we didn’t discuss work at home around our daughter. At one point I filled an interim position on the same staff with Phil. Some of the search committee was concerned about having a husband-wife duo on the staff, but the church and Phil embraced me as their minister. However, I pressured myself not to affect his job negatively. In positions we both loved, I personally made this the most stressful time I ever experienced in ministering with Phil.

The search committee of the last USA church I served treated Phil as simply my spouse. I thoroughly enjoyed standing by as he was interviewed about his views of, and support for, me and my ministry. Their salary/benefits package matched that for male ministers.

In Hong Kong, Phil has served a medium-sized church, while I’ve related mostly one-on-one. I volunteer as an ESL teacher and university minister, and we teach Bible and Christian Education together throughout Southeast Asia. Also, I have found my place in Hong Kong’s publishing world and through the wonders of technology in a global counseling ministry I could not have envisioned.

As Phil retires, that is, redirects to a volunteer teaching ministry in Asian Bible colleges, my ministry continues with no “Mrs. Phil” label—although he may be called “Mr. Irene” again at any time!

Irene Vinyard Bennett is volunteer minister with university students at Kowloon International Baptist Church, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Tuesday Prayer from Baptist Women in Ministry

Blessed is she who rises up while it is yet still dark,
for she has a sense of patience about the world.

Blessed is she who clothes herself in the beauty of strength,
for her life’s work demands such adornment.

Blessed is she who stretches forth her hand to her sister, the poor,
for they are the oppressed of the oppressed.

Blessed is she who makes herself no tapestry coverings,
for her hands weave greater labors of love.

Blessed is she who speaks words of wisdom,
for the world is not waiting to hear.

Give her the fruit of her mind,
for she has dared to envision a better world.

-Shirley B. Wright

Psalm 81: How I Wish My People Would Listen to Me by Katrina Brooks

How I wish my people would listen to me!–Psalm 81:17

As the writer of the psalm shifts from praise to lament we are caught off guard. I think we’d be more comfortable if the lament appeared to come from the psalmist but here the writer dares to suggest that the lament is from God. The writer uses desperate words–words haunted by sadness. In my mind I see a grieving parent wrestling with a child’s choice.

One of the hardest things I had to do as a parent was to allow my children to suffer the consequences of a poor choice. They look at you with wild disbelieving eyes, tears streaming down their faces. Pinched in anguish at the perceived betrayal and blotchy from brokenhearted tears, they beg you to save them. Your heart breaks as you stand firm. Children must learn that choices bring consequences.

Israel’s choices brought harsh consequences. Time after time Israel chose poorly and reaped the consequences. If only they had chosen wisely. If only they had listened.

While it is easy to vilify Israel I wonder sometimes about my own choices. I like to think every choice I make is profound and righteous, but if I am completely honest, sometimes I choose selfishly. I make a choice and then sit bewildered, tears streaming down my face wondering what went wrong as I beg God to save me. If only I had chosen wisely. If only I had listened.

I have friends who have profound and rich theological reasons for their spiritual disciplines. I simply want to listen. I want to hear God’s plans, God’s call, God’s desire. I want to hear God’s whispers and choose wisely.

May today be a day of intentional stillness as I seek to not just hear God’s voice, but to listen.

Amen and amen.

Katrina Stipe Brooks is a campus pastor at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia, and youth pastor at Madison Heights Baptist Church, Madison Heights Virginia. A mother of two incredible young adults and spouse of a Baptist General Association of Virginia field strategist and Sunday School specialist, Katrina is senior pastor of InFaith Community, a multi-cultural church that meets on the Lynchburg College campus. One day she will publish all the stories she has to tell, but right now she has to complete the registration process for her first semester as a D.Min. student at McAfee School of Theology.