Each Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces an amazing minister. This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Meagan Smith.
Meagan, tell us about your ministry journey, the places and ways you have been serving and are serving.
I currently serve as the associate minister at First Baptist Church, Lexington, North Carolina. I moved to North Carolina to begin this position after graduating from McAfee School of Theology in May of 2017. In my role as associate minister, I have the opportunity to engage with people and programs across the life of my church from bed-babies to senior adults, and my areas of focus include pastoral care, Christian education, and spiritual formation. In these first few months of full-time ministry, I have enjoyed learning more about the people I am serving alongside, figuring out the nuances of my role, and continuing to discern my own voice as a minister and as a member of my community of faith.
I also have the joy of working as the part-time project manager at Baptist Women in Ministry, where I help coordinate the Mentoring Group Program and the Ministry Search Resources. It is a gift to be able to work in this capacity and encounter so many wonderful women (and men) who are also navigating their own ministry journeys.
My journey in ministry has been one decades in the making. For my fifth grade career day, I proudly wore my classiest cardigan, carried the biggest Bible I could find, and had a huge nametag that read “Meagan Smith, Church Worker.” I loved church; I was in awe of my ministers, and so of course I wanted to be just like them. I will be forever thankful for those ministers—and the many others in my life—who have continually nurtured my spiritual formation, showed me what it means to be a holistic minister of the gospel (no matter your vocation), and who have empowered me and given me opportunities to explore my own calling. My calling has developed from a childhood want to emulate the people I looked up to into something that has driven my life, educational, and vocational choices and objectives.
I look forward to seeing where this journey will take me, and for now I am just living into the joy of this season of beginning.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
One of my greatest sources of joy has been the privilege of walking alongside people in both the beautiful and hard moments of their lives, the privilege of doing life alongside the members of my congregation. The first time I walked into the hospital room of someone who was terminally ill I knew I was standing on holy ground, but I have also never felt more inadequate in my entire life.
I will confess – those feelings of inadequacy are still there. I doubt they will ever completely go away. But I have begun to learn the importance of presence over words, and I have continually witnessed that it is a gift to be invited to walk alongside people as they navigate the joy and beauty and devastation and questions of life. It is sacred space, and it is in these moments, in the hearing of stories, in the celebrating of new life, in the sharing of meals and the sharing of prayers, that I most clearly encounter the spirit of God in myself and in the people around me.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
As I have transitioned into full-time ministry, one of my greatest challenges has been finding balance. I live in a small town in North Carolina where I have few peers, and my church has become my main (and really only) source of physical community. I love spending time with the people at my church, but I also know (thank you professors and mentors) the importance of finding places and people outside of my job that provide community and spaces for me to just be Meagan. This work/life balance has been a challenge, and it is something that I know I need to be more intentional about working on.
I have also encountered this challenge of finding balance as I continue to learn how to best live out my role as associate minister. The breadth of my job is exciting but at times it can be a bit overwhelming, especially as I discern how to most effectively minister among all of the people, ministries, and programs that fall under my arch of responsibility. Part of this challenge is naming for myself that I cannot try to tackle everything at once, or even in the first year, because that will not only exhaust me, but it will mean that some programs and tasks will not receive the time, attention, and energy they deserve.
Balance is my word for 2018.
How do you stay healthy, physically and spiritually?
I know that “self-care” has become a bit of a buzzword – but I really do think an intentionality towards self-care is what helps me to stay healthy. I don’t mean self-care in the consumer, bubble-bath, wine and chocolate kind of way (which yes, sometimes, is definitely needed), but self-care in the boring and sustained kind of way that keeps me healthy.
At this point in my life, for the most part, I know what I need to function well. I need a routine, I need at least an hour in the morning to myself before I start my day (cue morning pages!), I need to be outside (read: no windows in my office means hourly walks around the building), I need to set healthy boundaries with people in my life, I need to eat fruit even when I would much rather have fries from Bojangles, I need to take twenty minutes at the end of every day to make sure my kitchen sink is clean and things are put away, and I need at least eight hours of sleep. The list goes on.
Making a sustained effort to do small things like these helps me to manage chaos, both internal and external, when it comes up. This boring “make sure my budget spreadsheet is always updated” kind of self-care keeps me healthy and prevents me from too often hitting a breaking point due to exhaustion or overwork.
I find that when I am physically and mentally functioning at my best that my spiritual health is able to become more of a priority. To stay healthy spiritually, I try to make time for silence in my life, and I work to find practices that allow me tend to the divinity within me. A practice I have found life-giving this year is reading through Jan L. Richardson’s “Sacred Journeys” liturgical book of daily prayer for women. I find that her words stir my spirit and help me set my intentions for the day. Breathing in the blessings she offers has become a spiritual practice.
I know that working towards health in my life and in my ministry will always be a growing process, and I am going to try and continue to listen to myself and to the spirit of God so that my health – in every aspect – is always a priority for me.
What is the best ministry advice you have been given?
I have been given so many wonderfully pieces of advice by so many incredible people that it is hard to choose just one. But, I will share what I have kept written on a post-it note on my desk. This is an adage of Bo Prosser which came to me by way of Ruth Perkins Lee when she shared it with me during my first week on the job here in Lexington.
“There are things:
That you know you know
That you don’t know you know
That you know you don’t know
That you don’t know you don’t know
There will always be four. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself of the first and the third to help get your bearings.”
This advice has helped to own my confidence, claim my role, and acknowledge that there is much I do indeed know, but it also reminds me that I have much to learn, many questions to ask, and that I certainly do not know (or am not right) about everything.