2013 the year that changed everything...

If you told me a year ago that I would be sitting in my pj’s at 1:30pm on a Tuesday with everyone at home for a snow day...in Michigan, I would have never imagined it possible. It’s 2014 and last year at this time I was working full time doing middle school ministry at a large church just east of San Diego. Change was brewing. I had no idea...just how much change!

It all started a long time ago...in a galaxy far far away.
I went to a Christian College. I chose one I could afford and closest to my home to save money and live with my parents. I was 18 and knew I was called to youth ministry. What no one told me was how theology informs things like polity and potential career opportunities. I didn’t look into what my college professors would be teaching or enforcing in regards to the role of women in ministry. I didn’t think about how my college choice would impact or shape my experience as a female in ministry. I didn’t choose a Christian college based on college professors, or theology, or for their view on women in ministry. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it back then or why no pastor, parent, or mentor ever sat me down and shared anything helpful in regards to what training, theology, and challenges would await me in land of the “Left Behind, Institute for Creation Research andConcerned Women for America” Bible College I chose to attend. I didn't know just how much theology influences "real life" back when I was 18 deciding on colleges.

All I cared about was being able to do youth ministry...and I did. 
From the age of 18 on there was no shortage of youth ministry opportunities for me. I was a counselor at a Christian camp during the summers I had off in college, I worked for Campus Life, I volunteered in youth ministry, I ran a ministry to apartment kids in a nearby community. I got an internship at a “mega church.” I was too busy doing ministry to think about any life long implications from the theology I was learning and being shaped by (both good and bad).

I didn’t care how much money I was making or what my title was. 
I was young and didn’t have a family to support. I didn’t care about those things. If my church only invited men to speak at our camps and youth conferences it didn’t bother me back then. It lined up with what I was learning from my ultra conservative Bible College. I was too busy doing ministry and enjoying it to question things like theology. We didn’t question much at that college. If we did...we might be labeled as liberal and gee that’s bad, right? I learned only to get A’s and earn a degree. I didn’t ever find it beneficial to think for myself. Eager only to regurgitate what the professors taught so I can pass the class and move on to more fun things like youth ministry, dating, and life as a college student. I’ve always been more into “practical” theology anyways.

After things like...(real life) I started to think about theology a whole lot more. Complementariasm didn't feel too "complementary" anymore.

- I didn't see why hiring a female speaker was a big deal. I was sitting at a planning meeting for a well known Middle School Conference with a bunch of Middle School Pastors. We were all interested in bringing this conference to our area. During this meeting one of my (male) bosses mentioned we couldn’t host this conference if a female was the speaker. Wow...a talented female middle school speaker was on the lineup for this particular conference and we couldn’t host if she was the one coming to our city? Many of the other youth workers thought that was dumb and voiced their opinion. I thought it was stupid too, and didn’t say anything because theology also informs (my) paycheck.

-I was really sick of the gender thing. Our high school students were going to winter camp. When a female was booked as the speaker for “their” weekend at winter camp, they had to call up the camp to either change the dates or ask them to change to a male speaker. Dumb. Especially when more than half of those going to winter camp are female students. What's wrong with girls anyways? Are we less than men? It was feeling that way.

-I was working my butt off and started to care about things like titles, fair pay, and equal opportunity. Especially when (in my opinion...I am sure the boys club will disagree) I was doing much of the same job as my male counterpart for half the pay. I now had 3 kids and married to a teacher. We needed to make ends meet in Southern California and I didn’t have the luxury of not caring about fair pay and equal opportunity. No longer happy with a glass ceiling, when less qualified men advanced, got paid ridiculous amounts of $, or stayed safe in mediocrity because of gender.

- I like to read and think beyond my conservative evangelical bubble but had to be quiet about it. Hiding my Brian McLaren, Scot Mcknight, N.T.Wright, Donald Miller and Rob Bell books. We even developed a code word for Rob Bell in my family. We referred to him as Mark Driscoll in case our children ever quoted us in their Sunday School class. Rob Bell was deemed the “Face of Apostasy” for 2011 on a powerpoint slide during one of our Pastor’s New Year messages of 2012. I rolled my eyes. Nooma videos were banned. I also voted for Obama...and told no one for fear of being fired after a strong "Vote your Values" push from the pulpit (I was voting for equal pay!). I was tired of hiding the "real" me.

- I no longer wanted to enforce dress code and modesty rules. Dress coding always came at the expense of shaming and damaging the female students I was called to love and serve. I was no longer willing to share with a student how much “God Loves You.." and then dress code her for exposed bra straps or yelling at staff for getting a tattoo. The real message we were sending was one of “God loves you...so long as your shorts are not too short and you don’t talk to our male volunteers for extended lengths of time.”

And then I failed...
I began to question my theology, my call, and my longevity in “Left Behind” world. So I applied in early 2012 for my dream middle school pastor job at Mars Hill (Not the Seattle one!) I didn’t get the job. I came close, but I didn’t make the final cut. They never did fill the position due to a hiring freeze...but if they did, it wasn’t going to be me.

Last year, I left a youth ministry job without another job lined up. I could have stayed in mega church world...I was willing to keep people happy there. The people pleaser in me offered to delete my blog (a colleague did not like my blog at all).  Was willing to tow the company line, pretend to be a Republican, hide my real thoughts, etc...but it wasn't healthy for me to be what I wasn't. So I decided (in faith) to leave when it was clear I wasn't a good fit. It was the toughest few weeks I have ever went through...leaving felt like a divorce or a death.

Then came the summer of 2013….
Failure is not final. Mars Hill was (again) hiring a Middle School Pastor. The job was re-posted on the Mars Hill website which I stalked often, because my husband and I have always really loved Mars Hill. It started out as a Rob Bell groupie kinda thing...but even after he left we loved Mars Hill. We loved the idea of living into the reality of God’s kingdom now. After working for years at a church with a "celebrity" pastor, we also knew the advantage of getting all the benefit of the "celebrity" pastor without the challenges of actually having one. We were in love with the church, not a personality or a national spotlight.

Tim and I love what Mars Hill is about and what they are committed to. We love all they are doing locally, culturally, globally and specifically...how they are thoughtfully formational in regards to student ministry. They remembered me from before and after a whirl wind of Skype interviews and an on-site visit...I was offered the job.

I failed forward. Failure made me better. I had spent those 18 months after I didn’t get the job at Mars Hill developing myself. I grew professionally... reading a lot, writing, thinking through the terrible theology my (undergrad) Bible College degree inflicted upon me, read Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight, and outgrew my “Middle School Ministry Coordinator “ position I was previously struggling theologically through. I think my boss’s wife noticed my inner conflict before I did...(she is one of the most intuitive people I know). I wasn’t going to last long there unless I kept my mouth shut, continued to use code words, and pretended to be happy being Left Behind.

Reminding myself...
"We are not the same. But we are, somehow, one.
After it became clear I was no longer a fit for this place anymore, I still have to constantly remind myself we are all one Body. There are beautiful people there. Giving grace for them to interpret scripture through a very different lens than I do. We serve a good God doing beautiful things (even if I wanted to constantly bang my head against the wall in frustration) even in male dominated fundamental evangelical world. 

2014 and here we are.

I am the 7th/8th grade Middle School Pastor at Mars Hill.

The one in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We moved here a few months ago (in October 2013). My husband gave up his dream job (he had the best teaching job ever in San Diego) for my dream job. So here I am...I am in awe of God's goodness.

Sitting in my PJ’s at 2:33pm on a Tuesday enjoying a SNOW DAY and wondering how I got from San Diego to Michigan. God. He is Good...and he prepared a place for me and prepared me for a place. All in His time.


  1. And this is why those of us who love and adore you, love and adore you, Gina. God has blessed you and bestowed upon you a very unique set of skills and gifts and I am joyed that you have found a place that allows you to further develop those skills as you move toward achieving your goals as you serve the Lord unbridled by the systems of man.


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