Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Jen Van Camp.
Jen, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I started out working for a Kentucky youth camp for several summers after feeling God might be calling me to a life of ministry when I was in college. After that, I worked for Passport camps. All counted, I spent seven summers on youth camp staffs! After college, I worked as a campus ministry intern at the University of Kentucky. Then, while I was in seminary at McAfee School of Theology, I worked first as a youth ministry intern and then as a part-time youth minister. After graduating from seminary in 2006, I was called to my first full-time ministry job as the youth pastor at Nineteenth Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, California, where I continue to serve.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest sources of joy in ministry most definitely come from the relationships! I’ve gotten to know so many amazing teenagers, young adults, and families after doing this for over fourteen years now, and I count myself blessed to have been able to be a part of their lives. I consider it a privilege to enter into the joys and sorrows of their lives and to share all the tears and laughs (lots of laughs!). To be a part of such an important time of growth and faith development in their lives as they are becoming who God created them to be is humbling.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The first time I realized there might be an objection to my calling to be a minister based on my gender was when I was in my early 20s about to start a new job as a campus minister at a community college in a small town. On the day I was to move in, it was brought to my attention that not everyone on the committee was happy about the fact that the new campus minister was a woman. It didn’t bother me much then, and I decided to go ahead with the position anyway. But, after I settled in, there were times when I (with God’s guidance and compelling of course) had to make hard decisions about my future seminary education and job choices and seriously question the tradition in which I had been raised, which was not exactly friendly to female ministers. I have been happy with my choices that have brought me to where I am today. They weren’t always easy choices to make, but I wouldn’t change them, as I feel they have strengthened me as a person and as a minister.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
I have received a lot of good advice from my family, friends, and mentors over the years, but one of the most important has been that of patience. I can tend to be reactionary and expect immediate results (not unlike many of you, I’m sure) and can often feel impatient when that doesn’t happen. But ministry and life happen in God’s time, and it is my job to listen and discern and be patient before I act. To continue in ministry for the long haul, which I intend to do, a person must understand that authentic community and transformation cannot be rushed. It requires patience, and I continually strive toward patience. The example of important faith mentors in my life strengthens and encourages me along the way.