Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Christy Foldenauer.
Christy, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I began in ministry as a lay-leader years ago, serving primarily in the area of worship leadership. However, as time passed, I began to feel a call to teach—and then to preach. As I grew into this part of God’s call on my life, I also felt called to seminary. I had such a wonderful experience at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, where I began a degree with a pulpit supply ministry in mind. By the time I finished my MTS, it was clear that God was calling me to shepherd a specific flock as a pastor.
Phil Faig at Gayton Baptist Church was the first to extend me an opportunity to serve as vocational minister to adults. I joined Gayton as Discipleship Pastor in 2014, and served there for several years in this capacity. During that time, I began to sense a call to lead a church as a senior pastor, but I didn’t see the right opportunity as I explored openings in the area. Then, one day, as I was praying about what might be next, my phone rang! (Yes, it really is one of those stories!)
The call was from Tomahawk Baptist Church, and they were looking for a new senior pastor. My name had been given as someone they should consider. We began to talk, and by the second call, I remember thinking, “this is the place.” I felt a strong assurance that God was calling me to Tomahawk, and when they felt the same, I was overjoyed. I’ve been serving at Tomahawk since November of 2016, and I absolutely love the role of senior pastor.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My favorite part of ministering is what I call the “aha” moments—those moments when someone understands or sees something in a new way. Sometimes, “ahas” come while I am preaching, and I can see a face light up in recognition of a new idea. Sometimes, “ahas” come in private counseling sessions, where I am able to speak directly to a situation in someone’s life. Sometimes, “ahas” come when I am not around, and then I get the joy of hearing those stories. To me, this is what ministry is all about: helping others experience the joy of God’s Kingdom today, in the now.
What have been your greatest sources of challenge in ministry?
The first challenge was in finding the right place. I have never actually done that – the right places have found me. I believe that is God’s leading, and I am grateful for the way God has opened the right doors at the right times. Beth Moore once said something like this, “I never want to walk through a door I have to open for myself – it probably means I’m not ready for what is behind it.” Those words have really stayed with me. God has a way of bringing the right opportunities in the right time. I’m learning to trust God with each step of the journey – but that has been more difficult in some seasons, particularly where I felt underutilized in a role.
Now that I have this wonderful opportunity at Tomahawk, I’d say that leading change is never easy! I’m so grateful for several partners who will mentor me on a moment’s notice as I seek to faithfully lead Tomahawk to the place God is showing us. On my wall right now is a business model for ADKAR (a change management process I am working to employ), models for discipleship, and ideas about vision and necessary conditions as we seek to move forward into the next chapter here. This work is heavy! I take it home with me, because I’m all in here, and I want so much to see Tomahawk thrive. In this way, balance can be elusive. I’m focusing instead on rhythm – finding the ebb and flow of ministry life.
What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in ministry?
Be true to your call. God gifted you in specific ways – believe that God can accomplish His purposes through your life. Have tenacity about pursuing what God lays on your heart! Listen for God’s voice and strive to please Him alone.
I’d also encourage women to find mentors – both women AND men – who are ahead of them and who will be honest with them about opportunities and challenges along the way. In my own ministry, there are definitely women who speak truth into my life. I’ve also found invaluable support through three male pastors from different church contexts whom I trust and can turn to for advice and direction. Each of these men helped me in different ways between Tomahawk’s first phone call to ask me to consider this opportunity and the actual call to come to Tomahawk and serve. I am so grateful to have both men and women cheering me on in ministry. Identify these people early on, and make this a two-way partnership: there are things you uniquely understand and skills you bring that you can use to help a mentor.