Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on our blog. Today we are pleased to share this interview with Minda Purdie. Minda IS what a minister looks like.
Minda, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I am a preacher’s kid. I was at the church every time the doors were open—and many times when they were not. Whether it was a parenting choice or pure necessity (or a mix of the two), my siblings and I were fully engaged in the work of the church—tagging along on hospital visitations, giving rides to those in need, arriving early to turn on lights, and leaving late to turn them off again. My dad may have been our pastor, but our whole family was involved in service to the church.
The summer I turned thirteen, I went to a youth conference in Dallas, Texas. I stood in a crowded arena and felt God speak to my heart. The Sunday I returned, I walked the aisle and whispered into my father’s ear, “I want to surrender my life to ministry.” I remember how he received me with gentleness and some hesitation. It was not that he didn’t believe in me, but that he knew well the cost of these words. I wasn’t sure what God had in mind for me, but I began the good work as best as I knew how. I led Mission Friends, sang in the choir, and went to every youth gathering possible. As a teen in the 1990s when knee-highs and plaid skirts were in fashion, the likelihood that I could show up on your doorstep in my best Mary Janes for a Monday Night Outreach visit was high. My senior year I convinced my dad to let me be his intern so I could get out of school early for work release. Church was where my life made the most sense.
College taught me a lot of things, but clarity in my calling was not on the list. During my early twenties I served wherever I could, but I struggled to step further into a particular field of ministry. Much of my time was spent sorting out what I was not called to do. Then, one Sunday, I sat in a pew at Northside Baptist in Clinton, Mississippi, and listened to Susan Meadors preach. This was the first time I had been in the room to experience a female pastor lead worship, and a familiar still, strong voice welled up within me. It was frightening and exciting all at once. Suddenly, I was made aware that this life was possible. I could pastor, if I dared. It seems odd to me now that I couldn’t see what God was up to all along. I’d been walking in my father’s footsteps to bedsides and budget meetings, to summer camps and discipleship training, but I couldn’t picture my heels behind the pulpit. Watching Rev. Meadors preach, I felt my call refreshed. Not long after, I enrolled at Memphis Theological Seminary.
Seminary was an incredible experience, but it was not the fast track to full-time ministry that I had hoped it would be. I found myself still struggling to find work. I went through a period of depression and doubt, but God used a loving Methodist congregation to help me see I wasn’t ready to give up on my Creator (or my Baptist roots). I started volunteering with the youth and was given the occasional opportunity to deliver their Sunday night message.
I began to feel a pull towards ordination, but I wasn’t sure where to turn. I wasn’t ready to jump ship and seek Methodist ordination—lovely as that denomination may be—so I started to ask myself, “If the church is a body of people more than a building or particular institution, could my affirming church community be found spread out among my friends?” I emailed a former pastor, and he and his church, Northside Baptist, graciously agreed to oversee my ordination twenty years after I first surrendered my life to ministry. One year later, I began working part-time as the college and young adult minister at First Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas. This past January, our church agreed to bring me on for more hours as the associate pastor of congregational life. When we decided to move to Marshall, I really thought my hope of working on a church staff would be put on hold again. Instead, God has used this small community to embrace and encourage my call to pastoral ministry in ways I could not have imagined possible. I am so thankful for the opportunity to grow and serve alongside this beautiful congregation.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
The college students and young adults that I am around are truly wonderful. It’s an honor to walk with them as they are sorting out big questions of faith and their futures. I love listening to their stories—laughing with them and sharing in their burdens. College was such a crucial point in my journey. It was where I began to really deepen my faith in Christ, so my heart’s pull for these twenty-somethings is strong. It is good for me to be around such diverse young people who have enormous energy, tough questions, and fresh ideas.
I have a handful of students who are always willing to try new things with me. When I ask them to pick up markers and doodle while we pray—they are all in. When I ask them if they might like to try a night of centering prayer, getting together and sitting in silence—they are all in. Whether we are watching films that they have never heard of or sharing communion around my coffee table—they are all in. They have also served me in ways I never expected. A few years ago, we hosted a weekly Thursday night meal. When I was pregnant, I started making the same basic dinner each week, and my feet and ankles would be so swollen by the time everyone arrived. They never complained that the pasta was subpar. Instead, they offered to clean the kitchen. When our son arrived, they were among the first to celebrate with us.
Ministering to young people in a small town can be challenging. Very few of them stick around in the summer or past graduation. It can feel like a revolving door. I’m sad when those I have cared for move on, but I’m so very grateful for the moments we have shared together shaping one another.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
I’ve desired a full-time pastoral position for a quite some time now, but trying to sort out the callings of two people can be tricky. When my husband found a job in Marshall, Texas, I wondered what on earth God could have for me in this small East Texas town. I was amazed when my first official church staff position opened up at First Baptist Church. True, it was just for five to ten hours a week, but even that seemed like such a long shot when we decided to pack up and move to Texas. It was clear that I would need to figure out other work to help pay the bills, but I’ve gotten good at that sort of thing. Since feeling a call to ministry I’ve waited tables, sold retail, managed a college bookstore, and worked in healthcare.
It is hard work, but for now I’m a bi-vocational minister. As such, one of my greatest challenges is balancing time and energy. This year I was able to shift my workload to take on more church hours and less hours at our local university. It was a big transition for our family, but it has been a real blessing. Most of you reading this understand full well that ministry work is rarely less than full-time (even if you are clocking less). I’m trying to learn to listen to the needs of each job and prioritize. I am learning to say “no” when I needed to. I am trying to hold my two-year-old tight and find as much joy with my family as I possibly can in the hours we have to ourselves.
What is the best ministry advice you have ever received?
Take time to care for yourself, your relationship to God, and your family. My father modeled this well, and my current pastor does a great job giving priority to his loved ones. I am working on it.
In that same vein, I am also trying to heed the advice to slow down long enough on Sundays to worship with my community. This is really hard for me. If I am not careful, I can move through a Sunday morning in management mode. I can get sidetracked with all the little details that I’d like to fix or smooth out, and I forget to relax into the Grace of God. I am guilty of missing the moments that church is all about.