Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Jen Lyon.
Jen, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I literally cannot remember a time when I wasn’t aware of God. As the daughter of minister, our home was saturated spirituality, so I can say my first steps toward ministry probably happened shortly after my actual first steps. I was baptized in my Circus Playhouse T-Shirt when I was a seven-year-old and I can honestly say that while I know I had no real understanding of where following Jesus would take me, I loved God and I really LOVED church. I never wanted to miss it, those folks shaped my early understanding of who God was and how I related to God and to the world. I was in my early teen years when I first felt a vocational call to ministry, but having no female pastor role models, I couldn’t wrap my brain around this calling. I knew I wanted to love people in the way I felt loved by God. It wasn’t until I was at a small liberal arts college and met another female called to vocational ministry that things started to click. She was from another Christian denomination who affirmed women in all aspects of ministry life. My mind was blown, and from that day forward I began to fully embrace my call. My ministry journey has taken me from faith-based non-profit work, to social services, to being commissioned as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Field Personnel, and currently as one of the pastors in a non-hierarchical team of pastors at Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The people at Park Ave are my greatest source of joy! They encourage and challenge me. They tell the truth and are not afraid to ask hard questions. They love deeply and well. Every Sunday morning I have the same sense of awe as folks walk into our big red doors. The faces I see run the spectrum in pretty much every way—skin tone, age, sexual orientation, faith background and more. We have many, many, folks who have been hurt deeply by the church. The courage that they have to show up week after week, seeking God and community, daring to risk being hurt one more time is inspiration for me on the hard days and a deep source of joy every day.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Funding ministry is big challenge. In every ministry role I have been in I have been responsible for raising funds in some way or another. Working on a really tight budget, grant writing, and making hard choices when the funds just aren’t there is not the side of ministry one is most prepared for. Funding issues can easily lead a minister into a paralyzing scarcity mentality. I have been there more than once. Money is a part of ministry, there is no way around it, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be growing on the trees in the park outside our progressive doors. However, we serve a God of abundance and I have learned (and am still learning) to trust that abundance.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I have been given lots of great advice, but one recent piece of advice stands out. “You are not the only one,” she said to me when I was rattling off the list of things that had to be done: sermon writing, pastoral care needs, the leak in the preschool, the budget, weeds in the rose garden, the interns, and the overwhelming pain of the world. I often have to remember I am not the only one in the life of ministry. The need is almost always more than anyone person can handle. There are others committed to this journey and we never walk alone. In the chaos of pastoring, I often hear her voice reminding me that I am not the only one and I take a deep breath, thankful for fellow laborers and the Spirit of God who is always present.