One Week from Today: Baptist Women in Ministry’s Annual Gathering by Pam Durso

My favorite day of the year is quickly approaching: the day that Baptist Women in Ministry hosts its Annual Gathering! In one week, on Wednesday, June 28, we will gather for worship and celebration at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain. Worship begins at 10:00 a.m. and will be followed by a lunch.

Our worship theme this year is “Crossroads: Discovering the Sacred in Every Journey.” Themes for our worship services always seem be based on a newly discovered favorite quote, and this year is no different. The quote is from Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred: “If we truly want to know the secret of soulful travel, we need to believe that there is something sacred waiting to be discovered in virtually every journey.” Cousineau also references a scripture text that has become interwoven with our theme. “The LORD said to the people: ‘You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

Kasey Jones

Kasey Jones

Ossie McKinney

Ossie McKinney

Soulful travel, sacred journey, crossroads, reliable paths, rest for your soul — I imagine that, like me, you stand every day at a crossroad, seeking guidance, dreaming of soulful travel, desiring to find the sacred as you make the journey. I hope you have made plans to join us for worship as together we listen to the spirit and discern the paths we are called to follow.

Our guides on this worship journey are Kasey Jones, pastor of National Baptist Memorial Church, Washington, D.C., who is our preacher, and Ossie McKinney, minister of music at Faith Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, who will lead our worship.

Dr. Linda Bridges, Associate Dean of the College, Wake Forest University.

Linda McKinnish Bridges

Amanda Tyler

Amanda Tyler

Our service will also include testimonies by two Baptist leaders: Linda McKinnish Bridges, the new president of Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, and Amanda Tyler, the new executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Nora Lozano

Nora Lozano

As is true of all BWIM worship services, we will celebrate communion together. My friend, Nora Lozano, professor of theological studies and director of the Latina Leadership Institute at Baptist University of the Americas, and I will lead communion together. I have to admit that I am most excited about this opportunity to lead worship with Nora. Her friendship has been a special gift to me this year.

We will also recognize and honor recipients of our Addie Davis awards, our Frankie Huff Granger Distinguished Mentor Award, and our Church of Excellence. It will be a beautiful celebration!

If you have never been part of a BWIM worship service, you need to come. If you have come before, you already know how special the day will be. Just today I got an email from a minister friend who wrote, “We will be there. My husband says that the BWIM service is his favorite experience this time of year.” Lunch tickets are available until Thursday, June 23, so get yours today! You can purchase tickets on the BWIM website. 

Come join me for my favorite day of the year!

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


Rejection: The Painful Reality of the Ministry Search Process by Pam Durso

“God is clearly at work through your life and ministry. But at this time we are pursuing other candidates for the position and wish you nothing but the best as you live out your gospel call.”

“You are so gifted for ministry, and we appreciate all your gifts. Our committee, however, feels your gifts aren’t the right fit for our church.”

“We have enjoyed our conversations with you, but we are going in another direction.”

“Our process is taking a little longer than we thought. We will be back in touch with you should we decide to go forward.”

“You are a very strong applicant. We regret that we aren’t the church for you at this time.”

Words you never want to hear . . . or read in an email. Rejection is never easy or fun, but rejection by a church’s search committee can be especially painful.

Let’s start at the beginning. Rejection comes in many forms and at various stages in the ministry search process. After years of conversations with unsuccessful ministry candidates, I think there are at least four stages of rejection during a search process.

Most everyone who has been involved in a search has encountered the first-level of rejection: Your resume is sent out to a church, and you hear nothing. No email. No phone call. No form letter. Nothing. The search committee never acknowledges receipt of your materials.  The no-response rejection is incredibly frustrating, incredibly, incredibly frustrating. If you endure multiple such rejections, pesky questions about self-worth soon follow.  “Was my resume so bad that the committee didn’t think I even deserved a form letter? Am I kidding myself in thinking that I am qualified to be a serious ministry candidate? Should I quit now and go work at Starbucks for the rest of my life?” No-response rejections are extremely discouraging.

The second-level of rejection is the immediate negative response. “Thanks for sending your resume. We are grateful for your interest, but we have moved in another direction.” The impersonal form rejection email or letter. This kind of rejection can also be discouraging, but there is relief in at least having an answer, knowing where you stand in the process.

The third-level of rejection happens after some investment by the candidate. You send in written responses to questions, or you participate in a Skype interview. Then comes the “We think you are great, but you aren’t the one for us.” Suddenly the rejection is no longer impersonal, and the pain runs deeper and lasts longer. At this point, you may experience self-doubt and question your abilities. “Were my answers all wrong? Did I come across as too shallow or too analytical? Were my answers too spiritual or not spiritual enough? Did I talk too much? Did I say too little? Am I not good enough, smart enough, experienced enough, or theologically astute enough?”

The final level of rejection is perhaps the most painful of all. You make it through to the final round. You have given this process your all, invested fully in sharing yourself, telling your story, creating a vision for your ministry at the church with the committee, and as a result, you are one of two or three final candidates. The committee promises to contact you in a week. The call doesn’t come. You wait. Then you wait some more. When the wait turns into three weeks, you realize that the answer is going to be no. Finally, the phone finally rings, and you know what is going to be said but hearing the words brings tears: “You are extremely gifted. Our committee was so impressed with your gifts, and many of us wanted for you to be the one, but in the end, we decided you aren’t the one after all. We are so disappointed.”

I have sat with and talked on the phone with many, many candidates who have experienced rejection. Here is what I usually say, “Rejection hurts. Go ahead and feel your feelings. Be sad. Be hurt. Be discouraged. Be angry.” Call a few trusted friends and ask them to just listen. Then vent all those feelings. Say out loud all the harsh words you are thinking. Speak the truth you are feeling. Cry and rant and cry some more. Do not do this with each and every friend you have and certainly not with every stranger you meet. Limit your venting to one or two, maybe three, people, but do it!

Once you have spent some time grieving the loss, prepare yourself to move on. Don’t get stuck in your grief. There is work yet to do if you are going to find a position, and you cannot stay in the sad, mad, terribly hurt mode for very long (and “very long” varies from person to person—I talked with a young minister who confessed that she cried for a full week after she got the rejection call, but then she said, “I finally got tired of being so sad and realized that I couldn’t sustain that kind of unhappiness for too much longer).

Eventually, you need to recognize that the rejection is not nearly as personal as it immediately felt to you when it happened. Remember that over the past few months, the committee has been talking to and spending time with a good number of candidates. At every level along the way, the committee has had to cut names from their list, and while they have done so prayerfully and thoughtfully, they have made hard decisions and moved on in the process. Now they are near the completion of their work, and they again have made a hard decision, one that eliminates you from consideration. In the end, the committee members together have chosen another candidate based on their desire to follow the leadership of the Spirit and their best understanding of what their church needs. For these committee members, their decision is not a rejection of you but a selection of someone else. While the committee’s decision seems really personal to you, try hard to remember this (and this won’t make you feel better at first, but after a while, you will realize it to be true): The committee’s decision is not a negative statement about your giftedness or your calling or even your validity as a minister. Indeed, the fact that you made it into their final round is a statement of their affirmation of you.

Rejection is never easy or fun, but it happens to most every minister.  There is some comfort in knowing that you are not the first to be rejected. Others have walked through this dark valley before you, and because you know that rejection is likely to happen somewhere along the way, you need to surround yourself with supporters, encouragers, mentors, coaches, colleagues, and friends, who will listen to you and cry with you, cheer you on, and stand beside you on hard days.  The search process is too emotionally and spiritually demanding for you to do it alone.

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


Negotiating with a Search Committee, Part 2 by Pam Durso

To negotiate or not to negotiate . . . that is a question that I am often asked, and it is the question that I began addressing in last week’s blog. This week let’s take a broader look at negotiating, think some about the church’s responsibility and talk about some resources.

In the last few weeks as I have spoken with search committee members, I have been greatly encouraged by their preparedness. These recent conversations have indicated to me that more committees are doing good research in order to offer appropriate compensation packages to their candidates. These committees have consulted helpful resources, reached out to denominational leaders, and gathered the data necessary before making an offer. If committees haven’t done this work, here are a few resources I often suggest:

MinistryPay.Com, a resource from The Church NetWork, provides information on ministry salaries. It is a subscription-based service and costs $185 per year, but with that subscription comes helpful data for over one hundred job titles within the church, including salary data and other compensation information that is based on church size, geographic region, and the candidate’s experience and education background. Churches that are in process of calling a pastor or other minister should consider MinistryPay.Com an investment in “getting it right.” Consulting this or similar resources allows the committee to know that their salaries are in keeping with those of other churches and that their candidates will be offered a fair package.

“The Laborer Deserves To Be Paid” Compensation Responsibilities For Church and Church-Related Employers is an excellent resource from Ministers and Missionaries Benefits Board that addresses best practices in establishing a pastoral relations committee and in determining appropriate compensation package and annual increases. This downloadable document also includes worksheets to help with figuring out housing, insurance, disability coverage, and taxes. MMBB also has a PowerPoint that is helpful.

Laura Stephens-Reed, a certified Christian leadership coach, recently produced a new resource, Sailing Uncertain Seas: A Workbook for Navigating the Search & Call Process, which is an excellent collection of reflection questions aimed at helping ministers think through each stage of their search, including the negotiating process. This resource is available for purchase, and Laura has graciously provided a 15% discount for friends of Baptist Women in Ministry. To take advantage of that discount, click here.

If you know of other resources that have been helpful to you in the negotiating process, whether you are a search committee member or a candidate, I would love to hear from you! Happy negotiating!

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

Negotiating with a Search Committee, Part 1 by Pam Durso

To negotiate or not to negotiate . . . that is a question that I am often asked. Should a minister negotiate her salary with a church?

Here are some quotes I have heard from candidates over the years: “It feels so wrong to ask a church for more money.” “Ministry is about service, not about financial gain.” “This church loves me, and I know they will take care of me.” “There are lots of accountants at this church, and I am sure they know what my financial needs will be.” “The church will pay me as much as they are able to.” “If I bring up money, the church will rescind its offer, and then where will I be?”

Negotiating often feels unseemly. It seems so selfish. It makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps it is time we give some thought to negotiating and what all it means for us as ministers and why it is so important. So here is advice that I often share about negotiating:

Like all things related to the search process, my first words of wisdom are: Be prepared! Negotiating is not so much about requesting a larger salary as it is about preparing yourself financially for your future in ministry. Think about that for a minute! To be prepared for ministry YOU will need to do the math. DO YOUR MATH. Before you ever get into a serious conversation with a search/personnel/finance committee, you need to sit down and study your personal financial situation. Write down your monthly expenses–all of them. Take an inventory of your assets. Know your math!  You can’t make a good decision about your future if you don’t know your present personal financial reality.

Once you enter a serious conversation with a church, start doing the research. Investigate the area around the church. Check on average rent payments or mortgages. Figure out if the cost of living there will be greater than your present cost of living. Consider how much your housing budget will increase/decrease each month. Your utilities? Your grocery bill? There are some great websites that can help you with cost-of-living-comparisons. Check them out.

After you have a handle on your current expenses and some estimates of what those expenses will be should you relocate, think about your future expenses. If you accept this new position, will you need to buy a new laptop? A new car? How much will your monthly student loan payments be? How much debt do you have in addition to student loans? Do your present math AND your future math.

Once all the addition and subtraction is done, you will have a pretty good idea about the salary you will need in order to live comfortably–not extravagantly but comfortably. You should have a pretty clear picture of how much money you will need to bring home each month in order to cover your expenses and to leave you with some cushion.

My second piece of advice is this: Be healthy! Negotiating isn’t so much about requesting a larger salary as it is about being healthy. Your goal as you accept a new ministry position is to be the best minister possible, the healthiest minister possible for your congregation, and the grim reality is that if your income is not sufficient for you to pay your bills, you won’t be a healthy minister. If every single month you have to worry about making ends meet, if you are grossly underpaid, if money becomes a consuming concern for you, you can count on experiencing overwhelming stress. If that stress is long-term, it will result in discouragement, resentment, disinterest, and incompetence. Financial stress leads quickly to burn-out. Thus, the truth you need to recognize about negotiating is that it is an investment in your physical and mental health and your sustainability in ministry.

So when you sit down with your committee members, ask them about their commitment to your emotional, spiritual, and financial health. Have a honest conversation about what you will need to thrive, not just survive, but thrive as their minister. Don’t be afraid to share honestly with committee members about your financial needs. Talk to them about your student loans. You don’t have to share exact numbers but be as transparent as you can be. Some committee members  may not have any idea that a recent (or even not so recent) seminary graduate has debt or is still paying college loans.

Finally, think about this: if you aren’t willing to talk about money with a church committee before you sign on to be their minister, when will you be ready to do that? Most every ministerial job description includes leadership in financial planning, making budgets, and controlling spending. You will be dealing with money in your ministry, and talking about money during your search process will give you some clues as to how financial conversations will go for you in the future with this church. Negotiating can be part of the shared educational process… you will learn about them; they will learn about you. Negotiating can be an exercise in building good faith, and by negotiating you can lay the groundwork for a healthy future relationship with this congregation.

There is much more to say about negotiating, so this is the first part in the negotiating series. Next week, I will share some helpful resources that are available.

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






‘Tis the Season: Searching for a Ministry Position by Pam Durso

Seminary graduation ceremonies have come and gone. The celebration parties are over. This week, recent graduates have turned their attention back to their searches for a ministry position. Late spring always seems to be the busy season for those searching. ‘Tis the season especially for interviews.

These past few weeks I have talked on the phone, gone to lunch, and sat in my office with ministers and soon-to-be-ministers who have asked for advice about interviewing. While our conversations don’t usually include a numbered list like the one that follows, I tend to offer the same words of wisdom. So if you are in the in-person interviewing stage of your search, pull up a chair and let’s talk:

  1. Set aside time to pray, to listen, and to ponder. Never forget that this interview is not simply about getting a job. Securing a ministry position is not only about employment. Ministry is a calling, and discovering where and how you may best use your gifts and live into your calling requires discernment and attention to the movement of the Spirit. Prayer is where you must begin with the search process, and prayer is vital as you continue in conversation with a search committee.
  2. Research! Your seminary training hopefully sharpened your research skills. Now is the time to make use of those skills. Gather as much information as you can–from the church’s website and Facebook page. Do a Google search and see what other sources you discover–look for a published history, articles in newspapers, links to community events, information on staff members and church leaders.
  3. Study! Those exams you took in seminary were serious business. I hope you studied. But the study you need to do now in preparation for an interview is significantly more important. Your future depends on how well prepared you are. So study harder now than you ever did for that church history mid-term! Read every page on the church’s website, not just the pages that seem best connected to the ministry position in which you are interested. Read EVERY page–read the church’s history, the staff page, all the ministry pages. Read the newsletters. Read the bulletins. Watch four or five worship services if possible. Read with curiosity. Write down specific questions you have about programs, ministries, worship, and leadership. Take notes. Read through and study your notes in the days before your interview.
  4. Learn names. If you have not been given a list of the members of the search committee, ask for their names, and do some research on the committee. Find pictures of committee members (and Facebook is invaluable here), and learn their faces and their names! Know who you will be talking with before you go for the interview.
  5. Practice your answers. There are some standard questions that committees ask of candidates. Know what those questions are, and practice your answers. Practice OUT LOUD. Do a mock interview. Ask a friend or several friends to be “your committee.” Ask them for feedback about your responses–both the content and the delivery of those responses. Excellent interviewing skills are learned–they don’t just happen. (For a list of those questions to expect, check out the BWIM resource page here and here.)
  6. Write down the questions you want to ask the committee. Prepare thoughtful, insightful questions! They will expect you to have questions! (For a list of questions to consider asking, check out the BWIM resource page here).
  7. Give some thought to what you will wear. Dress like a professional. Ministers are professionals. This is not to say that you have to look stiffly formal. You don’t have to wear a tailored suit or high heels, but what you wear does matter. Sundresses and flip flops are not okay (unless the church you are interviewing with is on the beach!) If you have interview fashion questions, ask for help. Really! Ask friends for help if you need it. (On occasion, I get text messages from my young minister friends . . . who send me photos and ask: Does this work? Should I wear different shoes? Do I need some accessories? Do I look like I am wearing my grandmother’s jacket or my teenage sister’s dress?)
  8. Be yourself. Be true to yourself. During your interview, be honest about your strengths, your weakness (this is the question every committee asks). Be as candid as you can–this is not to say that you should be unfiltered and vocalize every thought you have. But share of yourself during the interview. You want to leave this interview feeling like the committee has a sense of who you are, what you believe, how you feel called.

In-person interviewing can be stressful–almost as stressful as waiting for a call back from the committee. Being prepared can lessen your anxiety and help you move into the interview with more confidence. Being prepared also helps the committee members know that you are serious about the position and that you are invested in the process! So do the work! Be prepared.

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



The Joys of Graduation by Pam Durso

Graduation season is my most favorite time of year! I love seeing the colorful regalia. I love hearing Pomp and Circumstance. But mostly I love the emotion of the day–the smiling faces of graduates, the relieved faces of their families, the proud faces of their professors. And there are always a few tears on graduation day.

Last Saturday, I had the best Central graduationseat in the house at Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s graduation. Because I was the commencement speaker, I sat on the platform–in the seat nearest the graduates and with a clear view as each one stepped forward to receive his or her diploma. I was close enough to hear the words of congratulations and blessings spoken by President Molly T. Marshall to each graduate. (That’s me on the far right in the photo). There was more beauty in those moments than I could even take in.

Yet perhaps even more beautiful for me on Saturday was the diversity.  A Chin youth choir sang with great joy and enthusiasm. The scripture was read in Burmese, Korean, and English. The Master of Divinity graduates were not just from Kansas and Missouri but also hailed from California, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. The great majority of graduates awarded the Doctor of Ministry were from Myanmar. Central is truly a global seminary. The differences in languages, cultures, callings, and life experiences made Saturday a day I will never forget. 
Molly and Pam ribbons

My trip to Kansas also offered me the opportunity to participate in the Blessing of the Women Graduates, an annual tradition at the seminary (one of the wonderful benefits of having a woman president). Seasoned ministers along with Central alumnae, professors, staff members, and trustees gathered and spoke words of affirmation and wisdom, and then each woman graduate was presented with ribbons, tied together with love by their president. The time of blessing ended with hugs and tears! I unexpectedly became a recipient as my friend, Molly placed ribbons around my neck and spoke lovely words of affirmation to me.

The joys of graduation–surely there is no better day on a seminary’s calendar! Thanks be to God.

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

Celebrating Beauty by Pam Durso

Two weeks ago Baptist women gathered in the lovely sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tennessee. Our theme for the three-day Leading Women event was CELEBRATING BEAUTY. At the first session of that gathering, I spoke these words: “In each and every moment of our lives, we find beauty. In the gains and in the losses, we find beauty. In the successes and in the failures, we find beauty. In the joyous laughter and in the grieving tears, we find beauty. For God’s spirit works in and with and through us in each moment, making all things beautiful, redeeming every heartache and pain, every happiness and joy.”

We then proceeded to celebrate the beauty of those women who walked before us, paving the way, blazing the trail. We celebrated the women who have stepped into places of leadership and service, sharing their beautiful gifts with us all in these present days, and we celebrated the beauty that is to come as God calls and gifts more women as pastors, counselors, preachers, teachers, leaders, chaplains, encouragers, and mentors.

That celebration of bSuzii ordinationeauty continued for me well past the conclusion of Leading Women. On Sunday evening, May 7, I sat in another lovely church sanctuary. This one in Nacogdoches, Texas: Austin Heights Baptist Church. The sanctuary was filled with faithful Baptists and friends of Baptists, and all those gathered shared in celebrating the beauty that is our friend and leader, Suzii Paynter. We named her giftedness. We affirmed her calling as a minister, and we laid our hands on her. We recognized the minister she has long been, the minister she is now, and the minister she is yet to be. And it was beautiful.

For the beauty of her ordination service, for the beauty of Suzii’s long-held calling, for the beauty of her strength and courage, and for the beauty of her faithfulness, thanks be to God.


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

Unexpected by Pam Durso

If you have ever planned worship or conferences or meetings, you will understand. I rarely, almost never, enjoy, receive inspiration, or feel renewed when I attend an event that I have planned. It is hard to be in the moment, when you are watching the clock, keeping track of what’s next. It is hard to be inspired when you are texting your co-leader, checking on your flight-delayed preacher. It is hard to listen, to sing, to absorb when you are directing traffic from the front row. It is just hard.

But many times last week in the midst of our Leading Women gathering, I found myself sitting on the front row NOT watching the time, NOT signaling the next speaker. I found myself swept into the moment–it was a wonderful, unexpected feeling!

Molly and LindaAt the very beginning of our time together last week, Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and founding mother of Baptist Women in Ministry, stood and declared that Leading Women was “as historic, perhaps, as that first organizing meeting of Baptist Women in Ministry in 1983.” I knew then that I needed to pay attention, to soak this gathering in, and so I did.

There were soraquel and joyce many special moments. I watched as two friends of seminary days stood together in the pulpit–now both are seminary presidents! (Molly T. Marshall and Linda McKinnish Bridges) I cried as a retired missionary sat next to her Chilean Baptist pastor friend (Joyce Wyatt and Raquel Contreras). I marveled at the new friends that blossomed quickly.

I laughed (and took selfies) with some of my students–both present students and those who have graduated and are now busy bringing change to our world. TMcAfee women 4 LWhere are too many stories to tell. Too many beautiful stories. For last week, a group of Baptist women made space for beauty. They listened to one another. They learned from each other. They cried together–and laughed. And they were inspired and renewed, and so was I. Leading Women was an unexpected gift. One I will be forever grateful for!


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

Leading Women: Our First Day by Pam Durso

There are really no words for what happened yesterday in Knoxville as women gathered for worship, conversation, laughter, and beautiful music. What a day. From LEAD Talks by our favorite leading women: Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, and Suzii Paynter to a powerful service of praise and worship led by Ossie McKinney and Meredith Stone. There are no words . . . but there are lots of pictures. Selfies. We began our time by making new friends, celebrating old friends, and taking selfies! And we used the hashtag #leadingwomen2017. Among my favorite selfies from the day are these:

selfie DihanneSelfie JackieSelfie Robin SuziiSelfie Marjorie RachelSelfie Robin Ashton PamSelfie Tonya DixieSelfie Taryn and TambiSelfies


Leading Women . . . Today by Pam Durso

Today. Finally. After a year of dreaming and planning and preparing, Leading Women begins today. And I am ready! For those of you who weren’t able to make it to Knoxville, follow our gathering on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Facebook Live, or follow us on twitter and Facebook at #leadingwomen2017.

Among the leading women who will be with us in Knoxville are Raquel Contreras, Kasey Jones, Molly T. Marshall, Carol McEntyre, Ossie McKinney, Suzii Paynter, and Meredith Stone. THIS IS WHAT LEADING WOMEN LOOK LIKE!

Raquel ContrerasKasey Jones 2Molly Marshall headshotCarol McEntyre headshotOssie McKinney higher res 1Suzii









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