Rachel Jones has been the children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Plano since 2018. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on church and ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
Prior to coming to the First Baptist Church in Plano, I served 13 years at Haltom Road Baptist Church in Fort Worth. At first, I served bivocationally as minister of children and then full-time as minister of music and children.
Where did you grow up?
I was an Army brat; so, this is a little difficult to answer. A substantial portion of my childhood was spent in Germany—Kaiserslautern and Fulda—and Fort Hood, but Fort Worth always has been home.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
I had the blessing of growing up in a strong family of faith. I was baptized at the age of 6, but as a teenager, I struggled with having no recollection of that experience.
My best friend and I visited with her youth pastor one night after a youth event at her church, and I expressed my concerns about my salvation experience. He patiently listened to me, answered my questions and helped me pray to receive Christ.
That moment is embedded in my memory, not only because I consider it to be my point of true conversion, but also because of the great patience and kindness displayed by a friend and a youth pastor to help someone in a crisis of faith. I came away from that experience as a new believer, knowing I wanted to spend my life helping point others to Christ.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I received a Bachelor of Music Education from Texas Christian University, a Master of Arts in Worship from B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, and am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership from Dallas Baptist University.
Why do you feel called into ministry?
I do not feel called. I am called. I will admit, though, that my calling to ministry was more of a slow awakening.
Through lay service and leadership in the local church and my experiences as a student at B.H. Carroll, I began to sense a call into vocational ministry. I reached a moment in time, though, when I realized this calling was real and required an obedient response. I surrendered my life to vocational ministry, and it has been an amazing adventure.
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I have not always felt adequate to this calling, but I have learned—and am still learning—that simple obedience trumps adequacy. Many times, I have gotten to see the power of God displayed most magnificently because of my inadequacy.
What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
I love the people, what I call “people-ing.” I love hearing their stories and learning from them. I love encouraging them in whatever God has called them to do. I love talking through their ideas with them and hearing the new things they have learned about God. The people-ing of ministry is my favorite.
What one aspect of ministry gives you the greatest joy?
Seeing lives changed by the power of Christ. Seeing the kingdom of God grow one soul at a time. Seeing that each person matters.
What one aspect of ministry would you like to change?
The busyness. Sometimes it’s easy for churches to equate a busy ministry with a healthy ministry. I would love to see churches transition from the busy model to living life simply together, shouldering the load of life together, and learning and growing together.
How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
Early in ministry, I was very directive and task-oriented in my leadership style. Over the years, though, I have found the value in casting a vision and providing a broad “template,” then allowing other leaders to test their wings by putting their own spin on things according to their giftings and personalities.
These days I don’t have the time or energy—or even the desire—to see myself re-created a thousand times over in other leaders. I’d much rather help others discover their unique abilities and what they bring to the table that perhaps others, including myself, do not.
How do you expect ministry to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Ministry must evolve to meet the unique idiosyncrasies of the information age. I have seen many approaches in ministry that attempt to respond to this shift in our culture. I’m not sure we have found the answer just yet. I fear ministry may risk becoming white noise if we do not focus it to the particular needs of today’s generations.
If you could launch any new ministry—individually, through your congregation or through another organization—what would it be? Why?
I would love to start a ministry that serves the children of ministers and connects them with support groups, retreats, counseling opportunities and discipleship designed to help them deal with and grow through the unique challenges and adventures that come with being so closely connected with church life.
Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your ministry.
Overscheduled families. Parent shame and guilt. Cultural understanding of truth versus biblical truth.
What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
Ministry is never self-maintaining. It must always be carefully cultivated, constantly and prayerfully rethought, and always will involve sacrifice. That said, every minister is trying to make it look effortless so we don’t scare people away from serving. It is not effortless. It is effort-full. We need help, even if we don’t let it show.
What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
A significant issue facing Baptists today revolves around our view—or perceived view—of women, specifically gender roles in the vocational ministry of the church. While I appreciate our denomination’s deference to autonomy of the local church on this matter, I also believe our society ultimately will demand from us a response on the issue of women in ministry. This likely will require us to engage in a difficult conversation with one another, but difficult things are many times worth the effort.
That said, I believe as brothers and sisters in Christ this conversation can be filtered through the love of Christ and his Spirit. Perhaps we even may learn something about one another and the Savior we profess in the process.
Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
My parents were the first and primary influence in my life. They taught me the value of serving in the local church, having a dedicated time of personal worship and actively pursuing the lost.
I also have a group of former and current professors, advisors and ministry colleagues who have spoken encouragement and wisdom into my life and ministry. From my former adviser and professor—and friend—Stan Moore at B.H. Carroll, I learned—and re-learned—that ministry is about giving yourself away.
I still can hear my former ministry colleague Ed Ferlazzo’s words, “We are pastors first and musicians or teachers or preachers second.”
I also recall David Bowman’s, executive director of Tarrant Baptist Association, reminder about leading through crisis: “Okay, Sunday’s coming. What are you going to do?”
From both Jim Spivey at B.H. Carroll and Mike Williams at Dallas Baptist University, I experienced the value of truly listening past what people say to what they mean and that truly listening places immense value on the speaker.
I have been blessed to have these and more in my life to speak true wisdom into my life and to challenge me in ministry and education. In a sense, my ministry is not my own creation but a compilation of the lessons I have learned from so many wonderful mentors God has placed in my life.
What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
Basic plumbing would have come in handy.
What is the impact of ministry on your family?
My husband and I take great care to treat Sundays as much as possible as days of worship and as little like work days as we can. That said, my kids definitely feel the uniqueness of being a ministry family. In some ways, this offers some valuable teaching moments with our children, but in other ways, it can leave everyone weary and unsure where church and work ends and family begins.
Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.
As a Ph.D. student, I read a great number of books right now. I have found Stanley Grenz’s A Primer on Postmodernism to be quite a prophetic word for my current age of ministry. I also liked Mark Clifton’s new book Reclaiming Glory very much. Aside from ministry and leadership texts, I read and re-read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and never tire of it.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
There are so many I could list, but my guiding light in ministry—and in life—has been Psalm 78. I believe it weaves together beautifully my calling and my passions for both worship and spiritual formation.
To tell the next generation of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done—even the children yet to be born—has been my life’s challenge and blessing.
Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
I really love the narrative of Joseph in the Old Testament. I think this is partially because of my lifelong fascination with Egypt, but I also find such hope and strength of spirit in his story. The Lord is largely silent through Joseph’s times of trial, but there is no doubt God is working in and through Joseph even in his darkest hours.
I also love the lesson that whatever has been meant for evil, God can use for good. This has taught me when things look their bleakest, look for the ways God is bringing about the good.
Name something about you that would surprise people who know you.
I am really a Type A introvert. I love people and enjoy talking with them. Afterward, though, I need to go and be by myself to recharge.
If you could get one “do over” in ministry, what would it be, and why?
I would start journaling sooner. I didn’t learn to journal until many years into ministry. Since I have started, I have noticed the cyclical nature of ministry highs and lows and have found encouragement in reading back over the more difficult days and how the Lord was faithful during them. If I could, I’d go back and tell me on my first day of the job to write it down, write it all down—the good and the bad—and see how the Lord is faithful.