Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on this blog. Today, we are pleased to interview Libby Johnson. Libby IS what a minister looks like!
Libby, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey is a bit out of the ordinary. I was called to full-time ministry when I was in my mid-forties, and after graduating from Campbell Divinity School in 2016, I assumed I would be in full-time ministry within the year. Ironically, God’s timing didn’t match my timing. I never felt called to full-time church work. I’ve always said I’ve been called to “the Church” not an individual church. So, I have had to reframe what ministry looks like for me.
I am an ordained minister, a certified Christian Leadership Coach, and a hairdresser. As a minister, I love leading retreats and workshops and speaking at conferences. As a coach, I love working one-on-one helping people as they develop strategies or as they deal with transition and move forward. Recently, I have come full circle with ministry “behind the chair.” God has allowed me to serve my clients in amazing ways. In September 2018, I was asked by a client who was diagnosed with kidney cancer to pray for him, but he said, “if that doesn’t work, I want you to do my funeral.” At that time, he was unchurched, and I realized that I had been his minister for twenty years. I was able to walk through those last days with he and his family and in December officiate at his funeral. The following spring, I had the honor of officiating the wedding for this man’s son, who was also my client for twenty years. Now, I have been asked to do a baby dedication for this couple’s newborn. In 2016, I was ready to get out of the hair business, but God has revealed why he had kept me there.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
Leading retreats! Without a doubt, this has been the greatest area of joy. Whether it is a group of six or eight people or twenty-five to thirty, whether it I co-ed or just women, I love being on retreat. I love planning and leading retreats, and it is such a joy to see how God works in these intimate settings. Currently, I have three retreats that I lead. “Be Still: Learning to Find Stillness in a World That Never Stops,” Let Go and Live Free: Loosen the Grip of Shame on Your Life” and “Trusting God in the Wait.” I am contemplating developing two others: “Self-Care” and “Trauma in Ministry.”
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The wait! My ministry has developed ever so slowly, and it has been difficult to wait. God has taught me a lot in this waiting period. God has taught me to trust more, to recognize the smallest of harvest, and to listen.
The listening has been a great struggle as well. I often wonder if I am doing things in my own strength, or if I am really hearing what God wants me to do. Thankfully, there have been many along the way that have encouraged me that I am listening.
Another challenge has been juggling work-life balance. I struggle juggling being a speaker, a life coach, and a hairdresser. Some days I wear all three hats in one day; these days are stressful, and yet, they feel good at the same time.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
A couple of things. I had someone tell me that when I am confused or stuck to go back to the last thing I heard God say and finish what God has already told me to do. This has been extremely helpful advice.
I also had another speaker and retreat leader tell me to “date the women you are with.” In other words, love on the ones God has placed you with.
A word of encouragement I received early along my journey has stuck with me. A good friend said, “Libby, I see you in the arena, you are not on the sidelines.” Sometimes I feel like God is moving so slowly and maybe I am just observing all that is around me, but her words remind me that I am in the middle of it all; I am on the field or in the arena playing the game; I am not just on the sidelines watching.