Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview Molly Shoulta Tucker. Molly IS what a minister looks like!
Molly, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
I think I always begin telling of my “ministry journey” with: I grew up a PK, a “Pastor’s Kid,” because I feel like it explains so much. I was in church from the beginning of my life. I was on every mission trip, at every church camp, at every youth car wash. When I went to college, my dad left ministry. I didn’t have a church “home” to go back to, and that took a bigger toll on me than I realized at the time. Spiritual community is important, especially for women, I think; especially for women following ministry callings. The call doesn’t leave you when you try to leave it. It just waits until you find your way back, because you will.
After seminary, I got married to my seminary sweetheart, a bearded, burly Rob, who is a United Methodist pastor. We moved to Florida, his homeland, for Rob to serve in ministry as he pursued ordination as an elder. Because of where we lived in Florida, there were no opportunities for female Baptists, so I had two “odd” jobs: I served as a guidance counselor for a year, and I served as an admissions coordinator for a memory care facility. I learned good things from good people, especially around dementia family care. I’m grateful for those opportunities, even if they weren’t ultimately where I felt called.
After a few years in contemporary worship leadership and youth ministry, and a move with my husband to Kentucky, my homeland, I find myself in a pastor role that I am immensely grateful for at Ridgewood Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. I knew from my teenage years I was called to pastor and there is a sense of peace and rest that I get to live out my calling each day. It took a few years, some moves across states, and some odd jobs, but my call to pastor never left me. I love what I get to do every day!
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
Far and above, my favorite joy is the moment during communion when the two lines are formed up the center aisle of the sanctuary, as congregants step forward to receive the elements. As they come to me, I get to hand them a piece of bread and say their name. There’s something so special about getting to look an 8-year-old or an 80-year-old in the eye, say their name, and hand them a symbol of God’s love.
Second, children and youth! We have a childcare development center in our building; the “squirmies,” as I so affectionately refer to them, make me feel like a celebrity when we get to share the love of Jesus with them each week in chapel time. I get so much joy just walking through our Sunday School hallway and saying, “good morning” on Sundays. I love asking a kiddo how their birthday was. I love teasing a teenager about learning to drive and asking about prom dresses. What joy to my heart!
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
#1: Learning not to take things personally is the greatest ongoing challenge. I want to give my best, but sometimes that means stepping back to process and separate myself from a problem.
#2: Youth Ministry! Youth ministers are saints, I truly believe it! My short stint in youth ministry grew me and frustrated me and humbled me and changed me. Kudos to y’all YM’s out there!
#3 Challenge: When I graduated seminary, I went almost a year without preaching. I was leading a contemporary worship band each Sunday, but there was something about the preaching moment that I craved deeply. I found myself jealous of my husband, who was preaching weekly. I was sometimes angry that I didn’t have the opportunity. I wasn’t angry at any one person in particular, but just frustrated that I wasn’t in a place I could serve how I felt ultimately called. Eventually, I did get opportunities – and now that I’m preaching each week, sometimes I crave rest from it! Perspective is everything. When there’s an aspect of ministry that is part of you and your identity, it’s hard to truly be yourself or for others to truly know you without sharing it.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
Can I offer 3 tidbits?
“The person is more important than the problem.”
Especially amidst COVID-19 separation, I’ve found preserving relationships even when things aren’t quite how you’d like them, is paramount. I know I’ve failed on this more times than I’ve succeeded. Relationships are the single most important thing of a holy community. Give grace. Be honest. Pray for each other. Gossip is toxic and unprofessional. Communicate directly. Even more – communicate face to face.
“Curriculum is important.”
It takes one bad theological apple to turn the whole bushel. Be careful what you’re teaching. Take note of who is writing it. Research writers. What is coming from the pulpit should mesh theologically with what you’re teaching in your children, youth, and adult classrooms. Don’t feed children and youth theological junk food and expect they’ll stick around church. Good curriculum is worth it!
“Women with MDivs are viewed as assets or threats.”
Depending on which boat you find yourself in can be life-giving or life-draining. At one point, it changed my entire perspective in a ministry role when I asked myself if I was being treated as an asset or a threat. Senior leaders, you can steer this. Affirm women ministers. Listen to women ministers. Believe that women are capable. Put women ministers in places to preach and teach, not as substitutes or fill-ins but as intentional speakers. It’s important to the formation of other younger female AND male ministers. Treat women like assets. Your staff and your congregation will follow your lead.