Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Lekesha Barnett.
Lekesha, tell us about your ministry at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church?
I serve the Young Adults (ages twenty-four to thirty-nine) of our congregation as well as the ONEderful Life Singles (ages forty and up). These two groups comprise the largest population of our church which is modestly estimated at 5,000 people out of the overall church membership. The two groups worked as a single unit for the first year that I became a full-time employee of the church. God gave me an organizational plan and growth strategy, allowing us to tailor ministry for each group. Now, the Young Adults have an executive council, four sub-teams, a well-attended summer Bible study series, and they are often called upon to support church-wide efforts. Most of my time is now invested in leadership development, teaching, and vision casting for future initiatives. The ONEderful Life Singles Ministry gathers on the fifth Fridays of the year to provide inspiration, mixing, mingling, and a meaningful message. Most of our members, age forty and up, find service through other ministries fulfilling and connect with ONEderful Life Ministry for fellowship.
I also participate in all of the four Sunday worship services, funerals, The Lord’s Supper and collaboration with other senior leaders to create the church calendar. I was appointed by the senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Marcus D. Cosby, to lead the “Showing Moore Love” campaign in 2013, which benefitted families in Moore, Oklahoma with clothes and supplies after tornados devastated their area. I often partner with the college ministry leader, Rev. Joshua Mitchell, for special projects impacting the millennials of our congregation.
My service is wherever I am called upon whenever the opportunity is available to share with our congregation. This may include teaching for one of our Family Groups in the greater Houston area, participating in Intercessory Prayer Ministry, catechisms and more.
Tell us a bit about your ministry journey–your calling and ways and places you have previously served.
After a short season of doubt and intense prayer, God’s call for me to prepare for preaching ministry in 1998 was certain. While living in Virginia where I attended graduate school at Regent University, I also learned that God was changing the culture of my home church in Houston. Until that time, women were not affirmed as ministers, but three women were acknowledged and given opportunities to serve. I was the fourth female to announce a call to ministry. After graduating with a Master of Arts in Community Counseling and a Master of Arts in Practical Theology, I was hired at New Faith Church in Houston, Texas to serve as minister of Christian education. In that role, with a small team of leaders, a teachers’ training program was organized as well as a comprehensive Christian education program for the congregation. Collaborating with the senior pastor, Rev. Dr. T. R. Williams, Sr. and other staff members was a regular component of my work to ensure the Bible studies and Sunday School classes served the membership’s growing needs. After three years, I was appointed as the first female assistant pastor.
From personal experience as a young woman in ministry and the first full-time female minister at New Faith Church, a unique perspective for the needs of women in ministry inspired me to partner with a group of women to create a 501c3 non-profit organization in 2006. HER Call Ministries launched in 2007 creating a platform for women in ministry to connect, collaborate and cultivate their gifts. After nearly ten years, HER Call Ministries has inspired women to pursue and complete seminary degrees, hosted preaching intensives, published a nationally released book and supported missions work in India. Through conferences, workshops, social media and networking sessions the ministry has served to empower women in ministry across the nation. This ministry became my focus for four years after working at New Faith Church until 2012 when I began ministering at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.
It has been my honor to share with several ministries in Texas as a conference keynote preacher, workshop presenter, and consultant. Christian Education, Spiritual formation, leadership, missions, prayer, and preaching are the major topics of my passion for ministry. As a means of sharing my passion with church leaders, Essentials Intensified Consulting was created to offer specialized support for ministries in transition. This is consistent with a recurring pattern in my life of God allowing me to serve in ministries at critical times of transition or restructuring.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
My challenges have most likely been the same as those of most women in ministry, especially those who are young, single and “the first” to lead in a church culture as it transitions to affirming women in ministry. God gave me a strong resolve that I should never try to argue the validity of my calling or prove that I am obedient to the call. Rather, my focus has been to faithfully serve and allow the fruit of my labor to speak for me. Having such a conviction very early in ministry buffered me from some attacks and pressures. I choose not to focus on the misogynistic activity that still prevails in many places because there is so much work to be done in areas where women are welcome. However, this in no way limits me from taking an assignment in less than favorable conditions. Therefore, I have stood side-by-side with our brothers who have yet to affirm female clergy and I have been outspoken when necessary to identify the subtle ways women in ministry have needs that are often overlooked.
By the grace of God, I have always been a very content and fulfilled single (unmarried and no children) minister. However, work in the church consumed most of my time leaving few opportunities to develop a social life and develop hobbies. After several years in ministry, it became necessary to reexamine my routine. I had to discover non-church events and engage recreational activities that provide physical and social refreshment all ministers need on a regular basis. This is the experience of many single-sister preachers and the reason I strongly advise those entering vocational ministry to devote time to physically and mentally invigorating activities.
What brings you greatest joy as you serve in ministry?
I am most fulfilled when God allows me to participate in the work of edifying believers and creating new ways to demonstrate the Kingdom of God. For example, Bible studies are meant to be interactive, creative and so relevant that the application can be perceived immediately. When believers are transformed, discover their purpose, and are mobilized in meaningful service, I am overjoyed. I love building relationships across denominational and cultural lines to form alliances that serve the community. After more than fifteen years in ministry, it is most exciting for me to explore new ways for individuals to mature in faith and be intentionally missional.
I believe God is at work in everyday realities with a plan to guide us to greater realizations of the love, truth, grace, and power we have access to through Jesus Christ. As I continue to enjoy adventures with God, my life is enriched when I can share lessons I’ve learned with others and invite them to join the journey. Sometimes that invitation is in the form of a sermon, a Bible study or through one of the books I’ve written. I really love my life and consider it a tremendous honor to serve the Church of Jesus Christ and I can’t imagine any other vocation. It is all I have known and I’m eternally grateful for the privilege.
You can read more about Lekesha and her work on her blog, www.lekeshabarnett.com