Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are pleased to introduce Ginny Dempsey.
Ginny, tell us about your ministry journey.
I am associate pastor for students at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia. In May, I will have been here two years. My responsibilities include the spiritual formation and activities of children and youth, worship planning and leadership, and pastoral care, among many others!
What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your ministry journey?
I have faced two main challenges in my ministry journey—one at the beginning of it and another at (what I thought) was the end. In 2000, after graduating Candler School of Theology with a Master of Divinity degree, I was seeking full-time ministry employment. I worked with a church for three months through the interview process, only to not be voted in on the big day. I was five votes short, and I received hate mail from someone who had called in others to block the vote against me. That was a very dark time for me as I felt I had followed God’s call and yet ended up feeling hurt and betrayed. I learned through that experience who my true friends were, and I also learned that churches are made of humans who make mistakes, can be unthinking at times, and often operate out of their own hurt and brokenness.
After that experience, I met a pastor who showed me tremendous kindness and pastoral care. I interviewed with his church and was hired as minister of youth, children, and missions. I served there for just over eight years. Most of those years were very happy as I gratefully lived out the calling of God. Toward the end, the church experienced financial troubles, and all staff were reduced to half time and half pay. I struggled financially and spiritually as well. I had not done a good job of developing and deepening my own relationship with God as I sought to help others with theirs. Again I was hurt and upset, and this time I determined to leave the ministry, but God had other plans, and after a time of healing, God brought me back into the fold.
What brings you great joy in life and ministry?
I experience great joy in life in both the big things—like adopting my daughter from China and watching her grow—and the little things—such as the beauty of nature or the happiness of hearing my favorite song on the radio. When I reached thirty and was not married, I decided to adopt a daughter from China. The time schedule seemed to be odd in that I had just started a doctorate program, but I felt strongly that God was ordaining the process. Two-and-half years later, I graduated in May and traveled to China in July to adopt Anna Grace. The timing was perfect. China later changed its rules, and no longer allowed single adults to adopt, so had I waited, I would have missed out on the joy of being a mother and having a family that God had planned for me!
I generally approach life with a positive attitude and an exuberance for what it has to offer. My greatest joys in ministry include watching a child grasp the love of God for the first time, baptizing a youth who has made a profession of faith after growing up in the church, or helping youth or children disconnect from technology and reconnect to God through nature and being outdoors at retreats. I also derive great joy from working with my colleagues to plan creative worship experiences that bring others closer to God.
Through all my experiences, both good and challenging, I have learned to rely on the faithfulness of God and to reiterate where I have seen and continue to see it flourish in my life. Thanking God for these moments of clarity and devotion help frame my life and ministry in light of God’s care and love. How can one not be joyful in the face of that understanding!
How do you keep yourself healthy–spiritually and physically?
Because of my earlier challenges, I have made keeping myself spiritually healthy a priority. I do so by starting each day at work with a time of reading, prayer, and devotional—before I ever turn on my computer! This habit (shared with me by a youth minister colleague) has helped me maintain and deepen my relationship with God and reminds me daily of why I do what I do. I also belong to a youth minister peer group that shares resources, and I participate in a monthly prayer time held at the church to remember those in need in our congregation and community. These groups keep me accountable and growing in my faith.
Staying healthy physically is a bit more challenging, but I make sure to take my day off and to use that day (when possible) as a personal Sabbath of rest and renewal. Sometimes that means taking a nap, and other times it means playing outside with my daughter. I also am trying to be more mindful of my health this year by making better choices of food and water, only eating when I’m hungry, and trying to be more physically active.