Each week, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week we are thrilled to introduce Jillian Andrzejewski.

Jillian, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served.
I have served two congregations in my career. My first congregation was Chamberlayne Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. I served as their children and missions minister for four years while I was in seminary at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. I had a big broad title and I did all kinds of things. Besides doing things for the children’s ministry and mission projects, the pastor let me preach, serve communion, accompany him on pastoral visits, and write the pastor’s newsletter article. This position was almost like a four-year internship and I learned all about the church. It was an invaluable experience. I am currently serving my second congregation, Mooreland Baptist Church in North Garden, Virginia. We are located just south of Charlottesville, Virginia. I am currently serving as their pastor and I have been here five years. This is a rural, family-sized congregation in a small community. I am solo pastoring and it has been an incredible journey.

What has brought you the most joy in ministry?
There are few things that have brought me joy in ministry and I cannot pick just one. Pastoral Care is one of the joys that I have experienced since becoming a pastor. Since I serve a small congregation I usually get to know multiple generations of the same family. When a crisis comes, sometimes I know the family so much that taking care of them is like taking care of my own family. It is truly an honor to stand with people in the sacred spaces of life and I get to do that with families that I know very well. I also enjoy being creative with our worship services at Mooreland. This Advent season we are using some new readings and we are continuing with a new tradition of placing strips of cloth in a handmade manger. This symbolizes our own hearts as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. Seeing my congregation finding new ways of engaging the Christmas story has been very rewarding.

What are the greatest challenges you have encountered along the way?
One of the greatest challenges I have faced is the steep learning curve I experienced when I first became a solo pastor. There is so much that you don’t know and you don’t know that until you become a pastor. You realize that your little bag of tricks is going to run out and continuing education is a must. You also realize that you don’t have all the answers to all the questions and at first that made me very anxious. Letting go of the idea that I was supposed to have all the answers was a process, but a healthy one. It allowed me to involved other people in decision-making processes and the creative things that I wanted to do. Doing ministry together with lay people is more fruitful and fun in the long run.

What do you wish you had known when you were brand new to ministry?
I wish I had known that I would feel more settled in three to four years. The first four years at a congregation are very hard. At first, you are in the honeymoon phase and then whatever conflict that hadn’t been settled comes around. You are faced with difficult issues and in those first years, I wondered if ministry was always like this. It’s not. It can settle out if you deal with the initial conflict in healthy ways. Conflict and crises will always come and go, but I believe that if you set a good tone with the initial issues then you will have a good base of trust to work from. When the next conflict or issue inevitably comes around, the lay people will trust you to handle it well, because you’ve handled the other issues well. Set the best tone you can at the beginning, don’t give up easily, and work with people to get through issues. And with God’s hand, you can work with the church to set up a healthier dynamic. It takes years, but with God’s help it can be done.