Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with a fabulous minister. Today we are thrilled to introduce Carrie Veal. Carrie IS what a minister looks like!
Carrie, tell us about the places and ways you have served and are serving.
After graduating from McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2003, I was called to First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Georgia. I served there as associate pastor of children until December 2009. Then I moved to Morningside Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where I was the associate pastor for children’s ministry until May 2014. That is when I was called to my current position of minister of children and community life at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
At each church I have had the privilege of leading children through the steps of faith through Bible story, hands-on mission projects, camps, and retreats, and more. I have also walked with families in these places as they have encountered child death, divorce, and job loss.
At Myers Park Baptist, I feel like I am fully living into my call through the ministry of community life, which encompasses working with guests, new members, member engagement, small groups, retreats, and congregational fellowship. Every day I feel grateful to be in a congregation that is thinking, feeling, and doing.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
In my ministering to children, I have loved seeing their faith expand with questions and curiosity as they form their own faith story. Children have no shortage of imagination, so listening to their retelling of a Bible story is nothing less than a beautiful moment.
Walking alongside families has given me the opportunity to, as a friend said recently, go behind the curtain. Sitting with a mom whose child is having surgery; a dad who has just lost his job; being invited to Easter lunch because my family was not close geographically; hearing a family say that they needed a church where they knew their children would be loved, accepted, and embraced; meeting with a lesbian couple who has been our guest in worship after hearing that our church is welcome and affirming: these are just a few of the moments that I hold dear and get great joy from.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
During seminary I was a nanny and did not work in a church. There were pluses and minuses to this, and it definitely caused some angst as graduation approached. When I was called to serve FBC of Gainesville, I walked into a large church with a children’s ministry of around 200 children. I quickly adopted the analogy that I had moved from playing stick ball in the backyard by myself to the World Series with no spring training or regular season games. It was a big learning, really fast. This challenge shaped my approach to ministry, to believing that anything was possible.
A second challenge has been knowing when it’s time to sunset a program, especially one that has been present in the life of the church for a long time. We all have our favorite events, those parts of church that we cannot imagine not being there. Yet over time, when new people come along, new ideas also come. It’s not possible to do everything! I have spent a lot of time debating the validity of one program rather than trusting myself that it’s time to sunset it so that another one can rise. It takes careful preparing of myself and others to make this happen. I have had successes and failures in letting programs go, with challenges along the way.
A third challenge has been work-life balance. When I began in ministry, I was single, lived alone with a cat, and did not think about self-care, personal time, and, sadly, even vacation time. I was so focused, driven, and consumed with ministry that everyone else came before me. Then I got a dog, Molly, who is still a part of my family. Molly made it easier for me to say that I needed to go home, to take days off for hikes, and to tend to adult things. When I got married seven years into ministry, this challenge really grew. I had to make adjustments to my lifestyle and even my thinking about work. Thankfully my husband was, and still is, supportive, helpful, and encouraging to me in this.