As we know, God calls us to varying assignments. Today’s blog features the testimony of Pastor Jackie Ragin Olds – one who saw herself as a “Christian Women’s workshop leader" and occasional speaker, but never a Pastor! God however, had other ideas…
Pastor Jackie Ragin Olds
Run With Endurance Ministries
Your Call Experience...
You have a unique story concerning how you became a senior pastor. You were asked by your husband’s congregation to take over for him when he was unable to continue to lead. Would you say something about that?
"I was a Sunday School teacher and had participated in women’s ministries and some workshops, but basically that was it. Workshops were ‘my thing.’ When my husband was called, I ‘agreed’ to be the first lady. Even then I still considered myself to be a member of our home church.
Circumstances beyond our control led to my husband’s absence, so I felt that it was my charge to serve as a leader in the interim until they called a new pastor (that was my intention). When it was obvious that he was not returning, after they met, they asked me to stay on as their pastor.
They saw leadership qualities in me that they liked and they felt I could lead them into the future. So I asked them to vote on it and I would pray on it in the mean time to consider if this is where God wanted me to go.
After prayer and consultation with my pastor and my brother who is an Episcopal priest, I decided to accept the call. The church called an ordination committee together and after they determined that I was fit for the office,the church and the ordination committee ordained me.
It is still hard for me to believe how that all came together. It had to be divine, because I can’t see myself putting that together on my own. It was a work of God. It had to be!"
You began serving as senior pastor of your husband’s congregation. Since that time there has been a change. Would you speak to that?
"We (the membership and I) decided we needed to start a brand new ministry. The ministry I accepted from my husband’s work was drowning in a negative history and we needed to come from under that. The congregation was very close and dedicated so we dissolved that entity and moved into a new one. We could feel a fresh wind coming and we wanted to be free and mobile. We believed it was in the best interest of the congregation to start a brand new church. Some charter members and I formed a brand new ministry that is about 8 months old. It is a contemporary setting with some traditional elements to it. It is a blending of contemporary and traditional worship services."
You would now be considered a “Church Planter.” In your opinion, what are some of the benefits and challenges of church planting?
"The benefits of church planting are freedom and autonomy. We can be creative. We had a chance to build from the ground up – have a fresh start from its inception. We are completely mobile – without a building, ministering much like the disciples. We are outside in the community like Jesus was.
The challenges: trial and error – good sometimes and not good sometimes! Also staying focused is a challenge. We come up with a lot of good ideas, but we have to stay focused on the vision so that we don’t wander off on every good idea. Also management can be a problem at times. Because we are creating as we go there are not a lot of rules. Sometimes we have to bear with the growing pains.
Finances are a benefit and a challenge. Our overhead is very low, but at the same time trying to save up to move into another place is going rather slow. It is has been a slow process. Fortunately, we are not in a hurry.
How do you balance being a wife, mother, and bi-vocational pastor?
It is a balancing act, but by the grace of God, I get it done. He works it out. Prioritize – that is most important. Taking a look at what is demanded of me and how my priorities should line up. I have to decide what is foremost - non-negotiable. I have to consider what am I going to sacrifice if it becomes overwhelming. I have to determine what goes to the bottom of the list.
One thing that is particularly important is understanding what God requires of me as an individual and what God requires of me as a pastor. I think pastors/ministers tend to get that confused. They feel what the church needs is what God is calling them to do personally, but it is not necessarily so.
Saying no to the congregation is not necessarily saying no to God! Somebody has to tell you that right off the bat. I figured that out the hard way. You can be a great pastor, but if you are a lousy mother – nobody accepts that! I have to do things unselfishly. If the church is having a social event and at the same time a family member needs me, I have to decide which takes priority. I have to decide which would be the unselfish thing to do.
The unselfish thing is not always obvious. You have to trust God and not worry about a member that might become angry or disappointed that you are not physically there to support their event. You can’t worry about those repercussions. It if is God’s program then He will make it what He wants. It is imperative to have a well-balanced prayer life. Without it you will quickly become overwhelmed and consumed with duties from all fronts.
When you are bi-vocational, you have to trust God because one will eventually win over the other. You can only be bi-vocational so long. Something is going to give. You have to trust that God is going to work it out if He is calling you from your good paying job!"
What, if any challenges have you faced being a female senior Pastor?
"I think about it harder than most because most of my life I’ve been in a male dominated environment. Brothers, no sisters, my vocation is male dominated. I am a development officer. The surprising challenge for me was the reaction of male relatives to my being called.
Some tried to be supportive and some are still intimidated. Also, stereotypes are a challenge because I don’t fit into any particular mold. People tend to have preconceived notions about who I am and how I am to behave in their presence so they are usually surprised. I am friendly and that tends to surprise people.
Constantly being watched. People are shy to approach me so at times I feel isolated. Sometimes other women watch from a far but they don’t engage with me. That can leave you feeling real lonely. Even some women pastors won’t approach you. You approach them and they scatter. Male pastors and male congregants may distance themselves from you because their wives are not comfortable with them interacting with you.
Most of the challenges come from other women. You would think the men would be a challenge but the women are usually more of a challenge. That is an interesting thing. Some of it is due to jealousy. Some women are jealous because this may be something they always endeavored to do but weren’t bold enough to overcome the problems associated with making that kind of move.
Bold enough for a variety of reasons. If, for example a woman’s family would ostracize her, we can’t judge her for her decision not to pursue the ministry."
What kind of support base have you developed to maintain mental, spiritual and physical health?
"I can’t over emphasize the need for advisors/mentors that will provide some support and guidance. Every pastor needs a spiritual guide. I don’t care who you are or how much God uses you. Also, I have a network of likeminded Christian women – some ministers, some not. I work out 3 or 4 times a week, even it if is just taking a walk for physical health. I watch what I eat even if I have to put the fruits and vegetables in a blender and drink it on the way to work!
I think most importantly for me, is the renewing of my mind. The renewing of my mind gets lost in the busyness. It is the first thing that gets sacrificed if I am not careful. I have to read and meditate upon God’s Word every day to stay spiritually healthy. If I am overly busy it is the first thing that gets compromised.
I listened to other pastors and preachers. I don’t just want to hear myself everyday. Seminary is a good experience. I know some people are scared of seminary, but I feel that it is a must. You can find all these things at seminary – advisors, mentors, likeminded Christian women, resources to renew your mind – it is a good place."
What words of caution and advice would you give to women that are considering becoming church planters?
"Keep the vision out in front of you so you will stay excited and be less likely to wander from the original plan. Have some prayer partners that understand what you are trying to do. That is real important. Wait on the Lord because His timing is important. His timing may not be your timing.
Keep it simple initially. Don’t take on too much, too many duties or projects. Just stick to one or two. Don’t be envious of other ministries because that is like having weak ankles. You’ve got all this wonderful, able body, you can do all things through Christ that strengthens you – but if your ankles are weak, you will stumble at an inopportune time. God needs you to be yourself.
One of the first things God said to me after I became a Pastor, was, 'You be you – I need you to be you.'
Be patient. It takes persistent prayer, long term. I would caution women to make sure that this particular call – being a church planter is the call that God has placed upon their lives.
If this is the call then the Lord will open the doors for you. You don’t have to force them open yourself. He will do it dispite prejudices and obstacles. He will open the doors that need to be open and shut some that need to be closed. Some we have forced open need to be shut!" End of Interview
Maybe you feel called by God to start a ministry but are uncertain as to how to proceed. Maybe others see leadership qualities and God's hand upon your life in ways that you have yet to acknowledge. Pastor Jackie's testimony provides some wonderful insights concerning how to prayerfully deal with questions, fears and apprehensions about accepting such a challenge.
Are you a church planter or feel called by God to do so? Post a comment, share your story, give some words of wisdom to others who may be considering the same. We want to hear from you! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,