Every Friday Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a fabulous minister, and today we are excited to introduce Julie Girards. Julie IS what a minister looks like!
Julie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I grew up in church thanks to my mom, who was a children’s Sunday school teacher and who took my three siblings and me to church every Sunday. I made my public profession of faith and was baptized early in elementary school after Vacation Bible School. As a teenager, I was very active in my church youth group and even served on a pastor search committee at one point. Because I didn’t know any women ministers, it didn’t cross my mind that I could actually be a minister, so when I felt God’s call to ministry, I talked with my youth group leader and decided that call was a confirmation to become a public school teacher and minister to kids in that way.
I graduated from Baylor University with a degree in secondary education and worked as a middle and high school teacher for four years before getting married and having children. Because my then-husband was able to financially support our family, we agreed that I would become a stay-at-home mom while our three children were young. During that time I was active in our local church, Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. I served on committees, helped start a MOPS group, taught children and adults in different capacities, and was ordained as a deacon in 1996. When my marriage fell apart in 2004, I went back to school to work on a master’s degree. I was soon asked to “fill in” for our children’s minister who had just quit. In the process of “filling in,” I had the overwhelming feeling that this was right where God wanted me, so I applied for the position. After interviewing me and several other candidates, Wilshire offered me the permanent position. Serving as minister to children has been better than anything I could have come up with on my own, confirming that God’s plans are always better than mine even when God’s plans get dropped in my lap.
I was ordained in 2015, and I continue to learn and grow and take on more responsibility in my role on staff and as a minister. Wilshire is a great supportive place to be as a female minister and a single mom raising children. Now that my youngest has gone off to college, and my kids are all in the process of becoming responsible adults, I am serving as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in CPS custody).
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
I think my ordination was right there at the top of my greatest joys. To be ordained as a female divorced single mom was so affirming. I often times don’t feel worthy, but I love that I can be an example, especially to girls, of an ordinary person who was called and equipped by God to serve in a ministry position.
I have always loved working with children and being an advocate for them, so one of my greatest joys is being part of the process as children decide to make their public profession of faith in Jesus and follow him in baptism. I’ve even had the privilege of baptizing several by request, and I feel very humbled that God can use me in this way.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
Personally, being a single mom is a challenge in any capacity. It is hard keeping a good work/life balance and taking care of myself as well as my kids, and it is really hard for single moms in some religious circles because of prejudices and beliefs. Fortunately, in my church or my Cooperative Baptist Fellowship world I have found great support.
Don’t even get me started on talking about dating. I meet people who think I couldn’t possibly be a good subservient wife if I believe women can be ordained, others who want to put me on a pedestal (where I don’t belong and certainly don’t want to be), and still others who don’t want anything to do with me because I couldn’t possibly be a fun person if I’m a minister.
Professionally, I have found it challenging to work with the those parents who want to just check off the box (profession of faith, baptism) with their kids instead of truly being involved in their spiritual development, discipling them, and being part of a faith community on a regular basis. It’s frustrating too that there are so many distractions that keep kids and families from being in church and growing Christian relationships and good faith communities.
What is ministry advice would you give to a teenage girl who is discerning a call to ministry?
God can call and equip anyone with any background. Your role is to listen and trust in God. God will work out the rest. Find someone who believes in you and supports you to help encourage you along the way. Not everyone will embrace your call, but trust in God and listen to the people who do.