Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview Kristi Jones. Kristi IS what a minister looks like!

Kristi, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.   

For as long as I can remember, I have loved going to church. My mom would often say that we could never miss a Sunday because my twin sister, Kari, and I would throw a fit if we did!  We simply loved being at church and being a part of a loving and supportive community. Now, looking back when I felt God’s calling on my life at church summer camp, I was 15. It  makes a lot of sense to have a vocation in the church!   

While I clearly understood that God was calling me to a life of ministry – serving, teaching and discipling – I didn’t think much at the time about the struggle it would be to get there. The only other woman I knew in ministry was my cousin, Lesley, who is 10 years older than me and was serving as a pastor of a church at that time. While I fully knew this was God’s call on my life, I began to struggle with if I, as a woman, could truly be a pastor. While I was blessed with incredible professors during my time at Indiana Wesleyan University who helped me seek the answers I was so desperately looking for, this struggle continued. Being Baptist, I would find that not every Baptist church I went to supported God’s calling on my life. So, I spent some time seeking understanding on where I stood theologically on all sorts of issues by spending some time in the United Methodist and non-denominational world. 

I still knew without a doubt that I was called to vocational ministry and served many churches in Youth Director or Assistant Youth Director roles in Florida and North Carolina for the next 8 years.  All the while, I continued to keep in touch with the ABC IN/KY (American Baptist Churches Indiana/Kentucky) Executive Minister, Soozi Whitten Ford, who has been a supporter and encourager for the past 8 years. While I was learning more about leading youth ministry and leading students, I continued to sense that God was calling me to ministry that served all the people in the church and involved preaching. I started my seminary education at Duke University Divinity School in August of 2014 and after a year and a half there, ended up finishing Seminary at Campbell University Divinity School, following my mom’s death, and a desire to thrive in God’s calling on my life. This was one of the best decisions of my life as I was truly able to seek and find my identity in Christ and a clear understanding that God, without a doubt, has called and equipped me to serve in vocational ministry. With the guidance of supportive and challenging professors and a deep dive into scripture, I started to find my voice as a preacher, teacher, and theologian. I found the confidence I needed to follow where God was leading me.

After spending a year in the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Duke University Hospital, I was called to pastor Memorial Baptist Church in Columbus, Indiana. I have served in this role for almost a year and a half and just recently received the recommendation for ordination from the ABC-USA. I anticipate being formally ordained in the next couple of months!  Even with the Master of Divinity degree and ordination, there are still days where navigating God’s call on my life seems like climbing up a ladder, only to get knocked down a few rungs again. Without a doubt, I know that God has and is equipping and empowering me to do what God has called me to do since that day at summer camp. The day I first felt, heard, and knew God’s voice so clearly. 

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?

The greatest sources of joy in ministry have been getting to participate in other people’s journeys. I have had the privilege of cheering students on from the sidelines of games, in the audience at ballet recitals and plays, on the floor of a dining hall, at the retreat center, or in the 12-passenger van while on a mission trip. As I’ve moved into a senior pastor role most recently, I’ve been able to continue to participate in the lives of children and students. I also had the privilege of holding hands in prayer around a dinner table or a hospital bed, sang hymns as loved ones faced their final moments on this earth, wonder and wander through scripture, and celebrate accomplishments and joys with people from all stages and walks of life. It is truly a privilege and a joy to do life in this way with all sorts of people.  

I also find great joy in teaching and learning alongside others. As a pastor, some of the greatest moments I’ve shared with others have been when we sit down and wonder together – wonder about the scripture and wonder about God. I find a lot of joy when we learn something be it from the words someone shares, or the words of a scholar I’m reading, or even the silence of a pause. It’s so fun to see something click for someone else, or even for myself, and it’s a privilege to share what we learn along the way. I love teaching the scriptures, too, and find a great deal of joy in learning more and more about God!

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?

So, I think maintaining my personhood and all the roles and titles that entails has been a challenge within ministry, but it’s a challenge that provides a lot of growth as well. I’m not just pastor Kristi! I’m also a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin, a youth and children’s pastor. I sit on a few committees with organizations whose mission I’m passionate about and so much more. Also, knowing when to say “yes” and when to say “no,” as well as knowing when to give myself permission to rest, to be a friend, or whatever it is I need to be, is a challenge.  

Another challenge has been drowning out the “naysayers” and listening to those voices of wisdom that I trust. Often, I don’t feel like I’m good enough, but then someone comes along and thanks me for a sermon I thought was awful. Or, someone sends me a card in the mail to encourage me and thank me for what I’m doing.  I’m realizing that while there are other naysayers, the loudest one is sometimes myself!  So, gaining and maintaining the confidence in who I am, and how God has called and equipped me, has been a challenge. Like I said earlier, there are days I feel as a woman called into ministry, that I’ve climbed up 2 rungs on the ladder! Then, there are other days where it feels like I’ve been knocked down 3 rungs. But, when I focus in on Christ and remember that I am called, equipped and empowered, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

What is the best ministry advice you have received? 

The best ministry advice I have been gifted with is to be authentic – whether you are in the pulpit, leading students, at the bedside of someone who is in the hospital or dying, listening to a congregant on the phone or in person, or wherever you may be. This has been great advice for my preaching, but also for the way in which I lead. I have found that when I am my true self, when I am leading or communicating from an open and honest position, that trust grows and others are more willing to welcome me in as someone who speaks into their life. This is vital no matter who we work with – be it children, teens, or adults! Not only is it beneficial in my work with others, but when I am open and honest with others, I find that I’m open and honest with God and give God space to work in my life, as well.