Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a Baptist woman serving in ministry, and today, we introduce you to Tambi Swiney, who is a new member of our BWIM Leadership Team.
I am approaching my fifth anniversary serving as the associate pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I was ordained by this congregation in May 2010.
What have been some of your “bumps in the road” as a woman minister?
I am blessed to be serving in a setting where my gender really isn’t an issue. The bumps in the road that I have faced related to my gender were those speed bumps and roadblocks that slowed my journey as I sought to discern how I could faithfully live out my calling. Early on, the lack of female role models in pastoral ministry clouded my imagination. I had never encountered a female Baptist pastor until I began seminary in my mid-30s. Later, mixed messages from those who claimed to be advocates for women in ministry but whose actions didn’t match their words confused me. I am grateful that God continued to put people in my life who urged me to keep moving forward and detour around the roadblocks. In the words of the psalmist, God brought me out to a spacious place.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
For the first five years after I graduated from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University, I was engaged in what I liked to call “freelance ministry.” I was heavily invested in the student ministry as a lay-leader at church, I served on a volunteer basis as the spiritual emphasis coordinator for The Next Door (a transitional housing community for women coming out of incarceration), and I wrote Bible studies, commentary, articles, and devotions for a variety of publications. However, during my son’s senior year of high school, I began to sense that God was preparing me for a vocational transition. I helpfully provided God with a short list of things I was not interested in doing—first and foremost, I had no desire to serve on a church staff. A conversation with my church’s youth minister proved to be a turning point. Josh was familiar with the excuse that I offered whenever someone asked me when I was going to seek a position in a church. “You can keep saying that you don’t want to serve on a church staff, but you have to stop saying that you aren’t gifted to do it,” he advised. Josh’s words bore the sting of truth. In subsequent days, I confessed to God that I was open—albeit reluctantly – to serving on a church staff. Shortly thereafter, the next stretch of my path became plain. To this day I am grateful to Josh for affirming my giftedness.
Who has inspired you in your ministry journey?
My grandmother, Hattie Lou Brown, has always been my primary source of inspiration as I have sought to faithfully live out my calling. In every season of her life, she has given generously, prayed fervently, worshiped faithfully, served enthusiastically, and loved deeply. As she approaches her 95th birthday, although her health is declining and her eyesight is failing, she continues to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. She recognizes needs, identifies resources, enlists volunteers, and empowers others to serve in the community, even while she is essentially homebound. Whatever she does, whether in word or in deed, she does it all in the name of Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).