A note from Kelly King: Each month, we will feature a leader who ministers to women, either through the local church, a non-profit organization, or in the marketplace. In today’s leadership Q & A, we’re featuring Courtney Veasey. Courtney has been training with LifeWay for a few years and is always a favorite among those who attend our You Lead events. You can hear Courtney at You Lead in Albany New York, October 18-19. For more information, click here.
Question 1: Who has been most influential in your ministry leadership and how did they influence you?
Since going into ministry at the age of twenty-one, I have had many outstanding influences to invest in my journey and help cultivate my leadership. Truly, tears come to my eyes as faces, and names of certain authors who had an impact too, pass through my memory. But if I had to speak of just one, it would be a man by the name of James Turner. When in their early thirties, James, his wife Amy, and another of their friends assumed leadership of the college and young adult group I was a part of while in college. We met in a small, white, nearly broken-down shack just off the church property (a space that’s now a parking lot), where some of the most dynamic discipleship I’ve ever experienced took place. James, a garage door repairman at the time, simply asked us to consider the text of Scripture. And this we did, for hours on end together. In neither a time before or since, have I encountered a man who cried more than James did over the love of God and truth revealed in Scripture.
During that time, I was a communications major in college and had my life set to pursue a career in sports broadcast/journalism. But in my junior year, through a series of events, I encountered a season of life that James would explain to me as being a “dark night of the soul,” or a “period of dryness/testing.” I’ll never forget him calling one day to say I had been on his mind. I broke down over the phone, telling him of strange thoughts, doubts, questions about God, etc., I had been wrestling with in the weeks prior. James said, “I have been waiting for you to get to this point…God has a reason for allowing you to walk through this, but this season will be about you learning to hand over the keys of your life to Him.” For a solid year, James never ceased to pick up the phone when I needed him. He taught me how to fast, the importance of journaling, how to praise from the depths of me, how to persevere in prayer, the importance of memory and meditation on Scripture, and other spiritual disciplines. James assured me time and again that God was real, that all I was going through was part of spiritual growth, and that God was bringing me to a place of surrender for a greater purpose. Nearly a year into this “Job” type experience, I had an encounter with the Lord during a worship service where I simply knew He was calling me into ministry as my life’s work. When I understood this call, when I said yes in response, it was as if a veil lifted from my eyes, heart, spirit, etc. and I could see for miles both backward and forward what this season of testing had been about. My whole life changed in that moment and has never been the same since. So, James was the one who discipled me into my calling in ministry, and for that reason I always reference him as being one of the most significant people used by God in my journey. The disciplines he taught me, the explanations and depth of wisdom concerning Scripture and how to navigate such a season of dryness, have been paramount in my continued journey as a Christian and minister of the gospel. And mostly, James modeled for me the importance of simply making ourselves available. At times when I have not wanted to pick up the phone to listen again to a struggling soul, I think of him and do so because that is what he did for me when I needed it most.
Question 2: How do you practically spend time with the Lord each day? What is your normal practice?
Throughout each day I speak to God in what I call, “breath prayers,” where I periodically whisper thoughts to Him that are spoken in the matter of a breath. “Keep me, Lord,” “Strengthen my hands, Lord,” “I love You, Father,” “Thank You, Holy Spirit,” etc., are some examples. Then at some point every day, whether morning or evening depending on when there is more time to do so, I meet with Him in a more concentrated fashion. I spend time in focused prayer, both speaking and listening, and then move into a time of reading. I usually read and meditate upon 1-2 chapters of Scripture, and then read one chapter from a supplemental book that usually is focused on spiritual formation or disciplines. Recent examples of some of I have incorporated into this time are: The Journey: A Pilgrim in the Lands of the Spirit (Alister McGrath), Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (Anne Lamott), The 24-Hour Christian: Sheer Encouragement for the Christian in the World (Earl F. Palmer), Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith (Michael Yaconelli), and The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus (Brennan Manning). I usually conclude this time with more prayer, mostly of thanksgiving.
In the present season, I have also enjoyed being guided in Scripture listening and prayer through a podcast called, “Pray-As-You-Go.” This format of daily devotional guidance is done in a lectionary style and so provides enough variation from my norm to keep my routine fresh. Then before sleep each night, I read through a Psalm in an effort to “meditate on the Word both day and night” (Ps. 1). Though disciplines are helpful for developing routine, I also believe in being flexible as the Spirit leads, not being afraid to “change it up” say by going on a prayer walk, simply meditating in silence, doing a creative activity, etc., however He guides.
Question 3: What is your best piece of leadership advice to another women’s ministry leader?
Recently a friend came to visit and slept in my guest room during her stay. In this guest room I have a beautiful red oak twin sleigh bed, covered with my style of colorful Bohemian-type bedding and numerous throw pillows. I’ve made this bed up in a certain way for years without giving much thought to changing it up. But when I went to go strip and wash the sheets on this bed after my friend’s departure, I was surprised when I went in the room to find the pillows arranged in a totally different way, a way I had never considered, and I loved it! In fact, I loved her arrangement so much that I took a picture on my phone to help me remember how to recreate the look.
What does this have to do with women’s ministry leadership? Consider this: As with my guest bedroom, in ministry too for years on end we can get into patterns of doing things the same way without considering how they might be done differently, or even done better. We can also be threatened when others (perhaps younger women or newer church and/or team members) want to “rearrange” our set up. My advice then, is first, for us all to be willing to invite other opinions toward the overall vision and administration of the ministry. And second, we must be willing to loosen control. Certain aspects such as evangelism, prayer, missions, discipleship, etc., are non-negotiable for any ministry to have. The WAY in which these are “arranged” or carried out, however, can be negotiable. Remember, all of my pillows and bedding were the same, my friend just rearranged them in a fresh way I had not thought of before. The same can be true for ministry, and when we let go of the “my way or the highway” mentality, we might be surprised at what we find.
Question #4: What is your current leadership struggle?
A current leadership struggle I’ve identified about myself and am learning to deal with, is that I am not good at asking for help. This is not as much out of pride as it is not wanting to burden others. As a result of my finding difficulty with the “ask,” I take on too much for myself and tasks are not always completed in the time or best quality they could be.
Question #5: What “new” thing are you trying this year that is requiring faith?
Out of obedience, at the start of this year I stepped away from two jobs at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, including directing the women’s academic program and being on faculty, to retreat literally into the woods to pursue completion of my doctorate and make headway with other writing projects as well. Faith has been required to know that the Lord is at work in this decision and this season, both in bringing me to my goals of these writing tasks, as well as drawing me to Himself through this time of reflection and sharpening. I believe in this season He is teaching me the value of pulling away from all else to be with Him, so that down the road when the stakes are even higher, I will still choose to implement this important discipline into my life and ministry. And though on many days my flesh wants to run out and take a regular nine to five job so I can appear more “normal,” and actually have tangible monetary results for working hard, I heed the restraint of the Spirit whom I know has me in a place to write and pursue a calling of itinerant ministry. Such takes faith and discipline to trust He will open the doors and guide me along the way of this path in His timing as He sees fit. As ever, my life is God’s nickel to spend, and so I walk in faith, trusting and resting in Him.
Courtney is a PhD candidate in biblical interpretation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She is the former Director of Women’s Academic Programs and faculty member also of NOBTS, and she has also served on a number of church staffs and in parachurch organizations including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life. Courtney currently resides in Florida where she loves spending time on the water and cheering for her beloved Florida State Seminoles.