Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview Ali Chappell DeHay. Ali IS what a minister looks like!
Ali, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
Last night as I hunkered down in bed I began reading “The Book of Gutsy Women” by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. In the introduction, Chelsea writes “in some ways, the cascade of inspiration started before I can remember.” This immediately made me jump out of bed and go read this line to my husband in the living room, because it rings true to me, as I feel that the “cascade of inspiration” from women in ministry has been present in my life since my earliest days on earth.
While my mom is a minister who continues to influence and inspire me, this inspiration stems from so many other women, too. These women invited me to serve alongside them from a young age, and this had a profound impact on my life. Through these experiences I was able to understand that I was unconditionally loved by God, but also that we can journey together with others to help them see their belovedness, too. I’ve said many times that I can’t recall an exact moment when I knew I was called to ministry, but I can remember tiny moments where I felt I was encouraged and empowered in the church.
Currently, I serve as the minister of youth and communications at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. I began working at Calvary as the minister to youth in May of 2014 during my first semester of seminary at Truett. When I moved to Texas from North Carolina, I convinced myself that the move was temporary; Waco was simply a place I would be for school. As time progressed it became clear that I needed to remain open to the possibility of staying in Waco after graduating from Truett and while I initially resisted, Calvary has proved to be the place where I feel called and have felt called for the past six years. I also serve as the social media manager for “Sacred Ordinary Days,” a Waco based company that creates liturgical planners. In 2019 I was ordained by Calvary, and it was a full circle moment, as women from my cascade of inspiration showed up, stood up, and spoke words of blessing over my calling.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest source of joy in ministry is the gift of SHARING joy. Simply living life alongside our students provides so many sweet moments. Whether we’re celebrating with them getting their driver’s license, making a sports team, or graduating, these moments are priceless and provide such beautiful reminders for them to know that they have adults in their corner.
Sharing joy isn’t limited to big life moments, though. I can’t tell you how much I laugh with our students, and it can be over something as small as a one liner they say at youth Bible study or a karaoke party in a church van. (our most recent youth anthem was “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow–don’t worry–they only knew it because it’s on one episode of “Friends.”)
These moments are made all the more rich when you’ve also walked through difficult times together. This is one of the unique blessings of ministry, that the tough parts of life are so often intertwined with the beautiful moments. It’s not always picture perfect, it’s not always easy, but it brings a deep and profound understanding of God’s gift of community.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Continuing to do ministry after the death of my dad was incredibly difficult. The deep sadness and despair that dug into every single corner of my mind and body is inexplicable, and that made it hard to witness people at church go about their routines as if nothing in the world had changed. Of course for me, everything had changed and nothing felt familiar. I craved routine and “normalcy” and so I actually loved going back to work after his memorial service, but I’ve come to realize that those cravings were simply shock and denial, and that eventually I would need to take some time off to simply “be” and to sit in the grief of losing a parent at twenty-five.
While it was challenging, this experience was also a reminder that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to tell people that you’re hurting, and it’s okay to grieve on your own time.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
Something I joke about, but simultaneously wholeheartedly believe, is that the Girl Scout Troop I was a part of taught me lessons I use in ministry to this day. The Girl Scout motto is “be prepared.” If there’s anything that I learned in youth ministry, it’s that being over-prepared may seem unnecessary but the one time you don’t over-prepare you’ll wish you had.
As soon as I started working in the church, someone recommended that I find a therapist. Even though I’d gone to counseling (many times) before, I thought it was a little much to start therapy just because I’d started working in ministry. Eventually I did find a therapist and it has been incredibly helpful for my mental health to have a place to process certain situations that arise in ministry. Even when nothing major is worrying me, I make it a point to go to therapy at least once a month. It has become a sacred space for me and I am forever grateful to the friend who suggested I find a counselor!