Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an amazing minister, and today that minister is Susan Rogers.
Susan, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served.
It has definitely been a journey. As a youth and young adult, I was aware of a tug to pursue vocational ministry, but it never seemed like the pull was strong enough or specific enough to be considered a call. There was no burning bush or flash of light. The tug to pursue vocational ministry grew over time and became more evident (or maybe I became more open to it) once I had started a family, became established in my career as an occupational therapist, and was comfortable serving in our local church.
Responding to this call meant selling our home, moving to Atlanta, and attending seminary at McAfee School of Theology. We moved with no specific end in mind, only believing this was the right next step. While in seminary, our family began attending Peachtree Baptist Church. The church needed an administrative assistant, so I filled that position for a while. Then I became their minister to students, and a few years later, their ministerial resident/associate pastor. The freedom, creativity, and love I experienced in this community gave me room to explore and imagine where God might be calling me next.
While I was a resident at Peachtree, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida was beginning a search for a church planter to begin a new CBF church in Florida. My first thought when I heard about the opportunity was “no way.” In my experience, church planters were (1) entrepreneurs, (2) men, and (3) almost always wore skinny jeans and plaid shirts. None of those things described me. Over time, though, the more I searched, prayed, listened, and experienced a growing passion for reimagining church, I felt myself becoming more and more open to the idea. I began meeting other women church planters and gathering with people who were experimenting with new ways of being church. Over time, it became clear that this would be our next step. Our family moved back to Jacksonville, Florida in the summer of 2010, and in March of 2011, The Well at Springfield had its first official gathering. It’s crazy to think we’ll celebrate our seventh anniversary this coming March!
What are the greatest challenges you have faced in ministry?
I wear so many different hats: mom, wife, worship leader, community liaison, pastoral counselor, preacher, neighbor, the list goes on. It’s a struggle to be truly present and not to become distracted by what comes next, what I “should” be doing, or what I’ve left undone.
Sharing the load is also tough for me. While we are a “work of the people” kind of church, I am still the lead minister, and I feel the heaviness of most of the responsibility. The questions come to me–whether the questions are about who’s bringing what to the potluck or how we should handle the budget. Delegating is a great idea, but that takes time, too. Not to mention that delegating requires planning ahead if you want to involve others in your great ideas … frustratingly, many of my best ideas come at the last minute!
What are your greatest joys in ministry?
One of my greatest joys is seeing people experience Jesus-centered love and belonging, no matter where they are on their spiritual journeys. Too often in the church, people are made to feel like they can belong only if they believe, accept a particular doctrine, or say a certain prayer. In our community, belonging is granted, whether or not you ever believe. It’s beautiful to watch a skeptic, an agnostic, and an evangelical Christian all come to the communion table—because they are all welcomed there by Jesus.
I also experience joy when people who’ve been excluded from full participation in the church are fully included, particularly our LGBT brothers and sisters. Their surprise to encounter unconditional acceptance still makes me sad, but knowing we have the power to be agents of God’s welcome gives me great joy.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
“Take the long view.” It’s great advice for church planting, yet it’s super hard to follow. I love my checklists, my timelines, and my ideas of how things should develop. Taking the long view, though, helps me gain perspective. It reminds me that it’s not about me anyway. I am a means to God’s much bigger scheme of things and so is The Well. As it turns out, my not-so-perfect sermon, our struggle to find adequate meeting space, and the things I think are urgent concerns may not be so important after all. It’s quite possible they are just part of the process of becoming. When I’m able to lean into the long view, I find myself less caught up in trying to be successful and freer to notice God here and now. I find myself more present with God, myself and others and more able to enjoy the gift of ministry.