2.01.2013

Women in Ministry Series: Taking Delight in Holy Friendships


Today's post is by K.D. Byers, who is abundantly gifted for her "quieter ministry of telling stories."

“Katie, you’re a writer,” Joelle says, “and if this crappy job lets you write then who cares?”

I slump against her kitchen counter and groan, “I do.”

The job would be like facing a week of Mondays. It would pay bills and give me time to write. This is where passion met pavement. I needed the work and my best friend is nothing but practical.

She takes a sip of her wine, “If you are writing then rest is just logistics.”

I have worked in a multitude of ministry settings. I have been upfront and behind the scenes. I have preached sermons and answered phones. Rural churches. Suburban mega churches. Low-church evangelicals. High-church mainliners. You name it I have probably experienced it. My mother was a pastor back when female ministers were rare. I have listened to her story and the stories of dozens of women across a plethora of types of ministries. And I can say the common thread across our stories is the role of holy friendship.

It is a rare discipline in the church. Yet, I believe holy friendship is vital for men and women. For women in formal ministry it may be even more important. By its nature ministry is an isolating vocation. Being a woman in ministry is even more isolating. It is an extra layer of varnish; you are shellacked and stiff from expectation. Friendships will prevent you from losing yourself in the work.

Holy friendship begins with God. Augustine called it bond between two souls that cleave to one another though the love poured out in the Holy Spirit. Theologian and teacher, L. Gregory Jones, describes holy friendships as people who “challenge the sins we have come to love, affirm the gifts we are afraid to claim and help us dream dreams we otherwise would not dream.”

Joelle is a heretic warrior. Non-truths disturb her and especially ones said in the name of God. As my friend, she is ruthless about non-truths in my life. She is going to say what I didn’t want to hear like take the job because you need it. Take the job because it doesn’t define you. God defines you and He made you a writer.

In college, a man asked me why I wanted to go to seminary; wouldn’t my husband teach me every spiritual thing I needed to know? When I was discerning a call to ordained ministry a female pastor told me I owed it to the church to be ordained because the church needed more women. And years later, after I had chosen the quieter ministry of telling stories, someone told me that my ministry was less important than the public one of a pastor. But it was my friend Joelle who spoke the truth plainly: I was a writer. Leave the logistics to God.

Women in ministry – and I posit any woman using her gifts to glorify Christ is doing ministry – need holy friendships. We need people who remind us of who we are and ultimately who to trust with the logistics. Ministry is hard whether we are working inside the church or out. It is like dancing the hokey pokey. You put your right leg in and shake it all about. Then you turn. You turn and turn and turn. You work too many hours for little or no money. You work until you are going to fall down. That is when you need a holy friendship that will grab your hand and tug until you find steady. They always point you back to God.

Holy friendship is imperative to my ministry story because it cultivates delight. Put simply, I am friends with awesome women. Joelle is a heretic warrior and my friend Anna is a prayer warrior. Sarah models childlike faith for me and from Amanda I learn wisdom and Laura, loyalty. Others are pharmacists, writers, and teachers. One edits a magazine and another is raising a beautiful, curious baby boy. When I think about what kind of mother I want to be someday, I think of her. I take delight in who they are in Christ. They remind me to take delight in the work Christ is doing in me as well.

K.D. Byers has a B.A. from the University of Iowa and an M.Div from Duke Divinity School. She is currently pursuing a MFA from Seattle Pacific University.

Twitter: @katiedbyers




About the Women in Ministry Series 
The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to:
Provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry. Encourage women to explore their God-given callings.

Contributions Welcome: Contact Katherine to pitch your post idea in 2-4 sentences. You can stay updated on the latest post each week by signing up for the weekly e-mail list.

Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome to leave a comment. However, this series takes for granted that women are called by God into every facet of ministry. This is not the place to debate that point and such comments will be removed. Women have been told “no” in far too many places. This is one place that is committed to saying “yes.”

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Next Week’s Blogger: Beth Hall


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