Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features a fabulous minister on our blog. This Friday we are pleased to introduce Sarah Murray. Sarah IS what a minister looks like!

Sarah, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.  

Growing up and in college, I was a part of large churches where women serving in ministry were not explicitly forbidden, but there certainly was no encouragement of women in vocational ministry. My earliest ministry experiences were at the Baptist Student Union at Mercer University; serving in various leadership roles helped me discern my call. As a seminary student at McAfee School of Theology, I deliberately chose a smaller congregation to join. Being part of a smaller church not only helped me to become connected, but also it awakened and nurtured my call to congregational ministry. The families at Parkway Baptist helped me realize and receive that family ministry is my area of giftedness. I began full-time ministry at First Baptist Church, Fitzgerald, Georgia, and I now serve First Baptist Church, Griffin, Georgia. In both contexts my role began with a named focus on children’s ministry and then, over time, included senior adults as well. I am grateful that both congregations, and the pastors and colleagues I have served with, have recognized and nurtured my gifts in other areas of ministry. That said, I think families and senior adults are the best possible combo—I have all of the fun and way fewer late nights than my friends in youth ministry!

What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?

My greatest sources of joy have been things that might seem ordinary, moments when I am able to really spend time with someone. Sometimes it’s lunch at school with a child when she tells me what new shape she sees in her pretzel as she takes a bite. Other days it’s talking through life and health changes with someone and signing as a witness on their advanced directive. It’s not always happy or easy stuff, but joy in ministry for me does have a simplicity to it.

What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?

When I look back on the things that have created the most anxiety and also spurred the most growth for me, I associate those experiences with change. Whether the changes are big or small, whether we are serving as a leader or not, anything new or different stirs up all kinds of emotions and choices for us. When you add to the mix the fact that our churches, and our culture in general, are experiencing rapid and seismic shifts, it can often feel as though we can barely keep up, much less imagine new solutions. We all have our momentary freak-outs, don’t we? Learning how to healthily process my experiences and having a strong network of wise guides has been essential. Good practices and rhythms have helped me put on my own oxygen mask first and then realize the plane is not crashing after all! Change is a broad answer, but it’s the truth. When I look back expecting to recall something awful, I instead realize how differently things look on the other side. The things that have been challenging feel less so now because of what I have learned from those experiences.

What advice would you give to young girl in your congregation who might be sensing a call to ministry?  

As you are paying attention to what your gifts and interests are, try to build relationships with people who share those gifts and interests. You need some people who are your age and who know exactly what you are going through right now. You also need some older people who have being doing this a long time and can be wise guides. Don’t just look for people that have been to seminary or who are ordained, because the truth is we become ministers when we’re baptized, long before the blessing of any ordination that might come our way. When it comes to women specifically, there are women in ministry all around you—the ones who have the title, “The Reverend,” and those who are deacons, Sunday School teachers, ministry team leaders, nursery volunteers, and people you might never see inside a church building. Look for the people you want to learn from who are also open to learning from you, because the back-and-forth between you gives you the best chance to reflect on and develop your gifts. This also means you have to be ready to listen, even when the person you trust has hard things to say. If you make time and space for these people, you will find some of your closest friends and biggest advocates.