Claiming Your Call in Ministry

Grief is like water seeping from a cracked drinking glass–you don’t always notice all the places that its touched until you see the crinkled and stained spots that appear. 

In the past seven years of ministry, I have grieved many things: the loss of community, the loss of support, loss of heart-felt dreams, the loss of my mother, the loss of the feeling of home. 

When I was grieving the loss of community, I realized I was actually grieving the loss of a very specific type of hope.

As a Black girl growing up in a Southern Baptist church in South Florida, I didn’t realize how unique my upbringing was. We weren’t the kind of church that didn’t dance, in fact, with our Emmy award winning Christmas pageant, most kids learned how to waltz at 15 years old.

Our congregation was so diverse that our Sunday morning sermons were translated into multiple languages on a weekly basis so that congregants could pick up a headset upon entry and hear the sermon in their native tongue–that was normal for me.

But for all the ways we were unique–we were SBC through and through and not once did I see a woman preach from the pulpit.

Aside from one female Connections Pastor who started out as the children’s minister and worked her way up, most of the women on paid staff were serving diligently in children’s ministry.

I will answer God’s call and follow in obedience because, “I have seen the Lord.”

Thankfully in student ministry, we had many female small group leaders and one fantastic student ministry assistant. Between those role models and naiveté, I didn’t know that becoming a student minister was a hurdle that needed jumping.

That is until after I received my Master’s in student ministry and applied for a job as a middle school pastor at my church only to be told that I should consider volunteering to build a girl’s ministry and see how that goes…

But I didn’t get a degree in student ministry to minister to one gender. I got it so that I could do what I felt God called me to do–and minister to as many students as possible and point them to Jesus.

The grief was real. All stages of it. The grief of realizing that the corner of the world I was living in was not ready for a Black female in student ministry just yet.

Denial and the thought that somehow this was all because I wasn’t good enough.

Anger and the bitterness that came with rejection and the resentment that came even when someone else was willing to give me a chance.

Bargaining and thinking I could reconcile my call with the place I’d called home.

Depression and thinking that I couldn’t do a job I once fully believed I could.

Acceptance and realizing it’s okay that those particular hopes were dashed because as we all learned from WandaVision this year, “What is grief if not love persevering?”

So, in spite of dashed hopes and a bit of a broken heart, I persevered because I love my God and I love what I was called to do. 

God provided a job where I could do what I felt called to do. But I started off doing it apologetically…there was a certain level of, “I’m sorry I want to do a job you don’t think I should do…”

And then scripture spoke Truth.

In John’s account, Mary was grieving and hopeless in the garden too–and then she had an encounter with Jesus where He told her to go and tell His story.

“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”

Once I realized that Mary and I shared some key similarities, I remembered that sharing the Gospel is not something to be apologetic about. 

I will proclaim the Resurrection wherever I can.

I will point kids to Jesus with my life.

I will answer God’s call and follow in obedience because, “I have seen the Lord.”

Mikiala Tennie
Mikiala Tennie

Mikiala grew up in South Florida. She started volunteering in student ministry while still a student herself and hasn’t stopped serving students since. Mikiala works in ministry because of her desire for people to truly know Christ. For six years she has served at First United Methodist Church of Stuart and currently has the role of Director of Discipleship and Student Ministries. She lives with her little Yorkie, KiKi Okoye Tennie.

1 thought on “Claiming Your Call in Ministry

  1. Mikiala, thank you for sharing this! I remember when I first became a para-church staff member and certain churches in our area wouldn’t meet with me because I was a female. Since then, times have started to change, but I appreciate the reminder of the hurt, loss, and grief associated with that time and want to work harder at making sure I’m part of the solution and not the problem. Thank you!

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