Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Kristen Koger.

Kristen, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.
As the daughter of a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship pastor, I grew up in churches where women were always allowed to have a voice and able to serve God and the world with the gifts God gave them. When I felt called to ministry the summer after my sophomore year of high school, it was incredible to be surrounded by people who affirmed that call. Over the years, I have served in many different contexts, but children’s ministry has always been part of my various job descriptions. I have had the opportunity to officiate weddings and funerals, to welcome babies into the world and to pray for the sick as they await healing; I’ve gotten to preach (and actually like it!) and lead retreats for senior adult classes. While my current title is “Pastor for Children and Families” I have come to view myself as a pastor to the whole Church and am grateful for the mentors along the way who have helped me own that calling and identity.

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
I really, really love working with children and teaching them the stories of our faith. Just this week, we concluded our Wednesday night programming for the school year. I asked the children I’ve been working with (PreK-Fifth grade) what story they would carry with them over the summer as we took a break. And to hear their answers and why they chose the stories they did was so moving! I am still fairly new in my current context, but am looking forward to building strong foundations that they can build on as they grow older. Church should be a place where children know they are loved. They should be able to bring their excitement and questions and doubts and joys to Church and know that it is okay to share them and that they are not alone in the many facets of faith their journey brings.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
I have been lucky to serve churches that I have loved deeply. And believe me, I do not take this for granted. But the greatest challenge has been saying goodbye to people I have pastored and loved when God calls me to a new place. You want to hold the place you’re leaving close, but you also need to make room for the place you are going. Finding the balance between “hello” and “goodbye” is never easy, but one that I try to get better at with each chance I get.

How do you stay healthy, physically, and spiritually?
I am way better at the second than at the first. But I enjoy spending time outside, or walking on the trail in the park by my house, and trying new, delicious recipes with ingredients I can get from the local farmer’s market. It is easier for me to work on my spiritual health, though. I love to learn and am trying to return to my love of reading (seminary caused me to pause on that for a while). Through podcasts and books and various online learning opportunities, I am always trying to learn something new or challenge myself in different ways. A mentor of mine says that if he stops learning himself, it’s an excuse for his congregation to stop too; and we should never stop allowing our world to get bigger and our opinions to be changed and our minds to be opened.

What advice would you give to a teenage girl discerning a call to ministry?
Surround yourself with people who will build you up in love and honesty. (We are here- we promise!) Find a female mentor who will walk with your through your journey; don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself- the sooner you learn to do this, the better. And remember that you are called by a God who sees and knows the potential in you, even if you aren’t sure of it yourself quite yet.