Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are pleased to interview Kristina Garrison-Clark. Kristina IS what a minister looks like!
Kristina, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and they ways you have served and are serving
My ministry journey began with me first being ministered to. I was three years old when I attended church with my Nana in Carson, California. She was an usher and would drop me off at Sunday School before she tended to her duties. The people in that church were so loving, kind and helpful. My oldest and fondest memories of my ministry journey began there: a place where the church community made me feel loved and valued. God’s love was extended to me through these members, and this love given freely by them assured me that God’s love was real.
I grew up in an unchurched family, so the only times I attended church were either with my Nana or with my neighborhood friends. From a very young age, I knew God had called and set me apart, but my gifts and purpose was not revealed to me until later in my adult life. For as long as I can remember I believed in God, but I never had one specific experience where I professed God with my mouth and believed him in my heart. In my younger years my relationship with God was more individual and experiential. In third grade, I received a super-sized book filled with Bible stories from one of my aunts. Being the avid reader that I was growing up, I was overjoyed to read this particular book over and over again. Once I had read it enough, I decided I needed to teach it to my siblings and peers. When the neighborhood children asked if I could come out and play, I told l them, “Yes, under one condition. You have to attend my Bible study.” For over a year when I was eight years old, I had friends young and old, sitting on my front porch learning Bible stories. I quizzed them and provided homework assignments that were graded and returned at the next Bible study.
At the age of eight, I was also baptized at my neighborhood friend’s church. I didn’t quite understand what baptism represented, but I knew that I loved God and that God loved me. I didn’t care who knew.
At the age of twelve, I moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to live with my aunt, and I began to attend church regularly. I participated in the choir, church plays, dance ministry, and any other activity as my aunt saw fit. I loved singing in the choir and listening to our pastor preach. While many of the youth were hanging out during service, I was taking notes. I remember being awed by the way the pastor brought the Bible to life and taught us to apply it. I remember when I was fifteen repeatedly searching “how to write sermons” on Google. I had never heard of seminary, but I knew sermon writing was something I wanted to learn. I so badly desired mentorship and guidance from our female youth ministers and the pastor’s wife, but I was too afraid to ask for what I needed.
During my freshman year in college, I became a part of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. During the meetings, I became aware of and was affirmed in my spiritual gifts. During my sophomore year I worked with a close friend to create an out-of-the box Christian organization on our campus, but partly due to my fear and self-doubt, the organization was never brought to life.
In college, I also fell in love with Christian rap and rapped with a Christian group for a short time. A month after I graduated from college, I joined the Passion for Christ Movement. For the first time in my life, I learned the difference between religion and relationship and was taught to read scripture and take it seriously. I was zealous for the Lord and determined to defend the faith to anyone who would listen. This was the season of life where my relationship with the Lord was based on legalism.
When I began graduate school I began to live freely in relationship with the Lord. I realized that I had been and would continue to be a community minster, bringing hope to individuals, communities, and systems through advocacy, counseling, and capacity building.
Currently, I am a community minister, who empowers others to identify and live out their purpose, who encourages and teaches communities to connect and better understand others’ realities and perspectives, and who advocates against systemic oppression. I am an ambassador of hope, who teaches, preaches, counsels, and engages individuals, communities, and community leaders to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
One of my greatest joys in ministry has been watching others fall in love with scripture and live it out in a way that allows them to confidently show up in the world as they are, find their purpose, and begin to live it out as best as they can.
I find great joy in helping others get to the other side of life obstacles.
I’m filled with joy when someone is able to be vulnerable, share their experience, and know that God loves and hears them because of our interaction.
It brings me joy to connect people to the resources they need in order to continue on the journey.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
I have struggled with constantly engaging in self-care. I have noticed that when I neglect caring for myself I experience the reality of burnout and compassion fatigue.
I have also struggled with confidently identifying myself as a minister. I had no clue that being a woman in ministry was problematic until I moved to the South and was reminded by a male pastor that I am simply a woman. Although I have big dreams, my womanhood has presented limits and boundaries that I need to be aware of. The experience with the male pastor crushed me and deflated many of the ideas and hopes I had for myself in ministry. That experience changed the way I viewed myself, and for many years I refused to label myself as a minister, due to fear of rejection and negative encounters. I have slowly made my way back to feeling secure being called a minister, and my experience with BWIM has aided in that process.
What advice would you give a young girl in your congregation who might be sensing a call to ministry?
Find a life long mentor/support group and be honest about where you are and how you feel.
Continue to actively participate in your relationship with God.
When you experience self doubt, hold negative thoughts captive and replace them with scripture.
Trust the process and know that you are enough.