My calling into full time student ministry within the local church was so crystal clear it scared me. I knew without any shadow of a doubt that the Lord was making a way for me. I was 21 when I was hired in my first full time staff role the day after I graduated from college. For over 12 years, I didn’t think twice. I endured ministry transitions, relationship losses, and difficult seasons but I never thought my calling would ever be taken outside of full time church ministry.
And then, as clearly as the Lord had led me in, He led me out. It wasn’t dramatic. It wasn’t even necessarily very hard. It was just incredibly clear that I was being called to serve in a different capacity– that a new season that I never expected to face was now the next chapter. As I have transitioned into serving within the academic side of ministry through my position at Wesley Seminary, the Lord has given me a whole new perspective.
Although, the decade of my 20’s was wrapped up in His will my identity had also been found in being a church leader. Being a staff member. Being needed by teenagers and their families in a capacity that sometimes brought stress but mainly brought joy. Instead of being someone’s wife or mother, I found my identity in being hundreds of teenagers, Steph. It was precious a gift but it was also a season where I lost myself a bit. Self-care and Sabbath constantly found a backburner despite me efforts to train for multiple half marathons and short distance races during those full time church ministry days. My summers left little room for last minute road trips to see friends or lazy Saturday mornings by the pool because I had found an identity in living life on back to back weeks at camps and mission trip after mission trip.
I find myself now in a season of pouring into ministry workers as a mentor, a champion and a prayer warrior. At the same time I am figuring out what it means to be a part of the body of Christ without my name and email listed under a church’s staff contact information. I am still Steph to a crew of college students and young adults who send me text messages on holidays and Facebook inbox messages when they have prayer requests or life changes to share but I no longer have 4-5 pews of teens looking for me to arrive into worship every Sunday.
I have the joy of taking a Sunday snow day without guilt to cuddle my niece and nephew and I am navigating what it means to be a Bible study participant and not the leader. It’s a beautiful season, a raw season, sometimes a bit lonely but what I’m finding more than anything in this time away from full time family and youth ministry is that it’s refining me and that it is Holy.