Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry features an interview with an amazing minister on this blog. Today, we are thrilled to interview, Valerie Carter Smith. Valerie IS what a minister looks like!
Valerie, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My professional ministry journey all began in Virginia Baptist life when I was appointed as a home missionary to the Hillside Baptist Center in Richmond. As the director of the center, I was also the one who recruited volunteers, managed the financial records, worked with children, coordinated the food and clothing ministries as well as cleaned bathrooms! I loved the ministry. Building relationships with the families residing in public housing, I was blessed to mentor many towards long-term economic self-sufficiency. Encouraging many to pursue a vocational or community college education, was my greatest joy. Today, many are homeowners, and several have been ordained to Christian ministry.
After 10 years in Hillside, I would go on to serve the WMU of Virginia for 5 years as the associate of Christian Social Ministries. Being with Virginia Baptist women throughout the state of Virginia was a rich ministry experience. My role was to simply equip and mobilize women to find their place in missions and ministry. In 2002, I would receive an invitation to serve the Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond as an associate pastor. For a little over 11 years, I served the congregation in the area of domestic and international missions and church-growth ministries.
Presently, I am serving as the executive director/treasurer of the WMU of Virginia. In this role, I am making attempts to lead honoring our traditional missions paradigms that are working in many of our churches. At the same time, I am making attempts to develop and nurture ministries that seek to address taboo issues. It is my goal to equip and connect women (and all believers) to address relevant issues for today’s world. For instance, in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement and racial tensions, I designed a S~P~A experience for women on mission who are concerned about racial reconciliation. These courageous women meet to share (S) stories related to race, to pray (P) and to explore action (A) possibilities. Designed based in the core values of WMU, S~P~A makes the work of WMUV relevant. And yes, it is still missional engagement aligned with the great commission and the great commandment.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest source of joy is witnessing a successful strategic plan rooted in social research and prayer. Two examples: 1) The former pastor of the Bon Air Baptist Church had a vision of a multicultural congregation. By the end of our tenure at the church, we sat in the pulpit as co-worship leaders, we looked out among the congregation with a sense of peace. We noted Muslim background believers, Whites, Blacks, Koreans and Burmese worshipping Emmanuel together. 2) At WMU of Virginia, in our 2015 – 2020 strategic plan, I listed 6 organizational goals. One of the goals was to renovate the CrossRoads Camp and Conference Center owned by WMU of Virginia. More specifically, the goal was to do so borrowing no money but paying-as-we-go. It’s 2020 and our 630 acre facility in central Virginia is looking great!
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The greatest challenge that I have encountered in ministry probably has to do with my being sometimes underestimated by colleagues and supervising bodies. This engenders a sense of righteous indignation in my soul. I find myself having to remind folks to review my track record in ministry life. I am transparent, authentic, and I speak-truth as I know it. I don’t claim to be perfect or to always make the right calls, but I do know that serving with integrity is important to me. It is frustrating when I don’t receive the same respect as my male colleagues in the ministerial environment or from women who are vying for place at the expense of diminishing me or another woman. I love working at WMU of Virginia because it places me in a position to uplift women. I am able to pave the way and give women of all ages, nations, tribes and tongue a platform to go forth as God has called her.
Another challenge has to do with my extroverted personality and trust in people. I share information to empower others whenever I can. I have been like this since a little girl. As a result, I have had intellectual property “stolen” from me on more than one occasion. This is an area of tension for my soul because no one individual has a monopoly in the work of the Lord; but many times I have felt robbed. I confess to you that in this season of my life and ministry, I have made a conscious decision to be more discreet while I work to engage in projects that benefit me personally and the WMU of Virginia.
What is the best ministry advice you have received?
As I am high functioning and never lack energy, I was always aware that this can be off-putting for some. My anxiety level has worked for me. While raising children I worked full-time, finished post-graduate degrees, traveled, kept a relatively clean house, was a pastor’s wife, and volunteered with at-risk pregnant teens. My young adult sons now testify that they have been everywhere with me such as Hebrew classes while I was in seminary to participating in programs at the Hillside Baptist Center and running down the halls of Virginia Commonwealth University while I was in class struggling with graduate statistics.
Most recently, the best ministry advice given me was by Dr. John Upton, Executive Director of the BGAV on my first day as executive director/treasurer of WMUV. I was comfortable at Bon Air Baptist and uneasy entering the WMUV space at the BGAV building. Coming to my office to welcome me, I shared with John my feelings of uneasiness. John responded, “When you are anxious, all of those that you lead will be anxious too.” I work diligently now to monitor my energy when in any group to keep myself centered and not upset others.
Valerie Carter Smith is executive director/treasurer, Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia.