Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister, and today we are excited to introduce you to Mary Carol Anderson.
Mary Carol, tell us about your current ministry position.
I have recently returned home to the church in which I was raised and have now served as minister of youth and recreation at First Baptist Greenville, South Carolina, for seven months. My primary focus is ministry to our youth and their families, while I also work with our recreation ministry and college ministry. I also serve as a staff liaison for our internship committee and scholarship committee.
What experiences have shaped and prepared you for your present role?
I often find myself having conversations with people who always seems to come back to the question: “why teenagers?” My typical response is that I remember how hard it was for me to be a teenager. I struggled with my own fears and challenges but was active in my youth group, and there I was offered what I feel was the greatest gift I was ever given: grace. That grace in the midst of all my mistakes equipped me for what I would later face in my own ministry to teenagers.
As a college student, I was a recipient of a loving college ministry that supported me and pushed me into discovering my gifts, and that experience shaped my theology and continues to impact how I lead youth ministry today. I believe youth ministry to be a building block for life-long relationships through the college and the young adult years rather than as a program that dismisses teenagers when they age out of the group.
Who has inspired you along the way as you have lived out your calling?
When I think of the many influential people who have been involved in my spiritual development over the years, I am in awe of their patience with me, and I hold on to the encouraging words that they offered to me in various times in my life. Experiencing the strong presence of women in the pulpit from a young age shaped and formed my image of God in the world. Michelle McClendon, Donna Forrester, and Gina Brock were the female voices that I grew up hearing at First Baptist, Greenville. Not until much later in my call did I realize how amazing it was to have these three special women as part of my spiritual formation through the years, leading in worship, serving in denominations, and being a guiding light for all women in ministry and leadership.
As I began exploring my call to ministry in college, Gina Brock and Frank Smith became my teachers as they challenged me and offered me responsibility and leadership within First Baptist’s youth ministry. They instilled in me a sense of confidence as they saw my gifts and passions for youth increasing.
I am reminded daily of the wise and thoughtful youth ministers, who offered me first-hand an experience of Christ’s unconditional love. Don Flowers and David Woody earned a few stripes and many gray hairs “raising me” in their youth ministry, teaching me the essentials of being present in places of brokenness and modeling for me how to be a light in the world. They since have become my most treasured friends and mentors as they continue to walk with me in ministry.
I am continually grateful for the opportunity to have partnered in ministry with many wonderful and gifted ministers in the past eight years of full-time ministry. The ministers and mentors that have been part of my journey have each shaped who I am today and inspired me to continue discerning who I am and where God is calling me. But my true inspiration is the countless youth. Their gifts of vulnerability and honesty paired with inquisition allow me to engage in their lives in unique ways that very few people get to experience. It is those moments that keep me energized for each day that God gives me to be their youth minister.
What advice would you give to a teenage girl who is sensing a call to ministry?
You CAN do this! You SHOULD do this! I will SUPORT you in this! I am aware of how fortunate I was to have been raised in a church family that fully supported women in ministry. I am grateful everyday for the opportunities that I had as a young female growing up, listening, watching, and learning from strong women in the pulpit and in church leadership. Because of them, I never questioned who could or could not be a minister. By their example, I knew that ANYONE who is called by God can be a minister!
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to engage in conversations with teenage girls about their sensing a call to ministry. These moments are wonderful! When I witness their passion, hear the love they have for others, and see their deep concern for the needs of the world, I am reminded of what the pure, essential meaning of ministry is.