Doing nothing is one of the main ways Karen Wilson, an Australian pastor and president of Baptist World Alliance Women, stays sharp for ministry, she told a virtual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance World Congress.
“For me, doing nothing is not doing nothing. It’s renewing and replenishing and refreshing,” Wilson said during her July 7 question-and-answer session with Baptist women from around the world.
Wilson said she is diligent about making sure her color-coded calendar has plenty of red in it over the course of a month, because that is the color that represents family time.
“I want to see that splattered throughout so I know I have a good balance. It may be called ‘doing nothing,’ but for me it’s restoring, it’s having creative space to be who I am meant to be.”
Wilson’s event was one of several workshops and plenary sessions for women held a day ahead of the July 8-10 BWA global online gathering.
Moreen Sharp, interim executive director of BWA Women, fielded queries for Wilson from Canada, India, the United States and other countries on subjects ranging from leadership and networking during a pandemic, to how to lead through disagreement and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance during especially challenging times.
Wilson said she grew up a preacher’s kid in a family that modeled the importance of taking time for self-care. One lesson she learned was that doing the things she is called to do actually helps keep her steady.
“Many things I do bring me energy, like speaking here today,” she said. “I sense God at work in this way. I say yes to things I have gifts, passion and time for.”
Spending time with family is another activity that “fuels my tank,” she said. Cooking dinner and babysitting her granddaughter provide a boost when life and ministry get hectic.
“Don’t be a shooting star but be there for the long haul.”
Her advice is to think about effectiveness in ministry over the course of a career, not for short-term success. “Don’t be a shooting star but be there for the long haul.”
Wilson was asked if she ever feels like quitting ministry. Her answer: “Often. Monday mornings, after a Sunday preaching, I’m always wondering, ‘Why am I still doing this?’ There are a lot of low points in my week. It takes a decision of will just to keep to the cause sometimes.”
Networking is another way to share the load, especially when it comes to bringing women together for ministry, she advised. “As a leader, you need to be connecting with other leaders from Baptist groups who will then lead other people. Work with the influencers who have a group around them. That would be my priority: lead other leaders who will lead other people.”
Use that connected time to pause, pray and worship, Wilson said. “We don’t need more knowledge. We can go online to get more knowledge. We need more connection.”
And from there move into action, which includes “getting our hands dirty, right in the grassroots,” she said. “Doing what Jesus would have done, serving in different ways the most vulnerable and needy in your country.”
Working through disagreements in these settings requires a dedicated focus on the core values of the church, ministry or other organization, Wilson added.
“We don’t need more knowledge. We can go online to get more knowledge. We need more connection.”
“You have those conversations offline and in private, then agree what your public statements are going to be. You need to allow grace for issues where you don’t agree. I don’t think there would be one follower of Jesus on this planet who completely agrees with every single thing I think, but we have to agree on the values and on what’s important.”
In BWA Women, that central value is that women are thriving, she said. “We must agree on that. It would be a disaster if not. You stick to the core essentials of the ministry you lead and you give grace for the others.”
And if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught leaders anything, it is that they must be flexible, honest and open to adopting new approaches to ministry and technology, Wilson concluded. For her, that included learning how to edit videos, preach to computer screens and lean more heavily into relationships with God and others.
“Change your expectations and keep relationally connected. Find people you are friends with. Take offense lightly and forgive quickly.”