Every Friday, Baptist Women in Ministry introduces a remarkable minister, and on this last Friday of 2018, we are pleased to introduce Yalonda Smith. Yalonda IS what a minister looks like.
Yalonda, tell us about your ministry journey and the places and ways you have served and are serving.
My ministry journey started on September 11, 2001. After the horrific experience of that day, I prayed in my living room and asked Christ to forgive my sins and be the head of my life!
I now serve at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia. Mount Zion is my first church! I accepted and acknowledged my call to ministry, and was licensed and ordained there. I have served in several ministries, including the women’s ministry, single adult ministry, and choir. In 2013, I took a huge leap of faith and left my government job for a full-time ministry position at my church. I am now the minister of youth and young adult ministries. In this capacity, I have the pleasure of overseeing and planning discipleship activities for our children, youth, and young adults. As an associate minister, I preach, teach, and officiate the sacred ordinances of the church when called upon. In addition, I oversee our media ministry, supervising a team of about fifteen adult volunteers and staying updated on technology such as website design, social media and worship presentation software.
Outside of Mount Zion, I served as the director of the Women in Ministry Department of the Virginia Baptist State Convention, Inc. for two years. During my time with the VBSC, I hosted retreats that provided a safe place for female ministers to share, reflect, and sharpen their gifts. My goal was always to have a place where sisterhood could be celebrated and our gifts could be mutually affirmed.
Currently, I serve as the assistant to the director of the Children’s Ministry Department of the Global United Fellowship. We provide worship services and biblical teaching for children during our annual gathering. We also provide coaching and ministry tools throughout the year to children’s ministry leaders associated with the fellowship.
What have been your greatest sources of joy in ministry?
My greatest joy in ministry is when children or youth approach me because they have made a personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. These moments make any hardship or difficulty I have encountered well worth it! These moments remind me to keep the main thing the main thing. I also find joy in watching our young people pursue their God given purpose! I love receiving phone calls and text messages from our youth, college students, and young adults and hearing about God bringing a message that I’ve shared with them back to their remembrance in a time of need. When children and youth can articulate what they believe because of the foundational teaching they receive on Sunday mornings in Wee Worship and HABITS Teen Bible Study, or on Thursday evenings in the new members classes, that serves a confirmation for me that I am being used for God’s glory. These are extremely joyful moments for me! Walking with them and their families is a great privilege that I do not take lightly.
What have been the greatest challenges you have encountered in ministry?
The greatest challenges for me have been the lack of support from other women in ministry and being a good steward over myself. When I accepted my call to ministry, it seemed to open a door with other women that read “Do Not Enter!” I remember when I first sensed a call to ministry I approached one of our female ministers and inquired how she knew God had called her. I was struggling internally as to whether or not God could use me, and I was met with words of discouragement versus encouragement from a woman minister. As I have journeyed along, I have met with other women who have felt there is not enough room at the table for us all so “Yalonda” had to go. I am grateful to God for bringing other women into my sphere who were confident enough to affirm the gift and callings God has given me. These women are my tribe. They help to sharpen my gifts by continually praying for me, offering words of wisdom, encouragement and correction. Our relationship is reciprocal and we take turns celebrating and supporting each other because we know God has room, opportunity and purpose for us all. We are all part of One perfect body in Christ!
The importance of self-care is a lesson I have learned the hard way. When I entered full-time ministry, I was so excited! I could not believe I was actually earning a salary doing what I was passionate about. I visited our children and youth at school, attended their extracurricular activities, planned service opportunities for them in the community, taught their Bible classes, launched a six-week summer camp at the church, blah blah blah. Although I am proud of those accomplishments and opportunities to do what I love, I forgot about a very important ministry responsibility. The ministry to myself. I had fallen victim to wanting everyone to have what they needed and be happy with me that I forgot to take care of myself. I was so insecure and afraid of failing that I sought to prove to myself that I could do it all! As a result, I struggled with a severe case of burnout. On top of that I was caring for a sick loved one. I involuntarily received a crash course in the class “Learn how to say NO!”
What advice would you give to a teenager who is sensing a call to ministry?
My consistent message to young people is to be who God created them to be. There is so much pressure to be like someone else, but God has made all of us a designer’s original! They may have similarities to others and common interests, but each one is unique. I encourage teenagers to embrace and celebrate their uniqueness. God created all of us different for a reason! God will use our uniqueness to convey His message to the lost. I also say to teenagers: Embrace your voice, your strengths and your weaknesses, because God will use all of it for His glory. Constantly seek God for direction for your ministry call! Depend on God and not people to see the vision come to pass! God has everything that you need to be successful. God will provide the resources and the wisdom needed to see the vision through.