Throughout our history, the Brethren in Christ has been blessed by the many women who have served as ministers, missionaries, and church leaders. Today, we celebrate female pastors that are deeply impacting their congregations and leading us in service and devotion to the Lord.
Pastors Naomi Smith of Dillsburg BIC, Carmen Dones of Harrisburg BIC, Rebeca Pedroza of El Monte Calvario BIC, and Teddi Rodgers of Grafted Church reflect on their unique experiences and how God moved them to ministry.
What led you into ministry?
Naomi – I was led into ministry by the quiet, persistent voice of the Holy Spirit and the lavish encouragement of the body of Christ. Even as a lay person, I was given opportunities to teach, preach, and lead worship. These chances to “test my wings” in ministry enabled me to grow in confidence and conviction.
Carmen – My mother and other women in leadership affirmed my calling and encouraged me to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit that I was sensing. I had been praying about how God wanted me to serve in the Church and the pastoral role at Harrisburg BIC opened at just the right time.
Rebeca – I felt God leading me closer to him early in my childhood and placing a burden on my heart to bring people to Christ. Throughout my life, people would often approach me to ask about God. I didn’t understand why they asked, and I certainly didn’t have all the answers. But that led me to seek God even more.
Teddi – When I was a child, my family was very active in the local church and I eagerly joined in sharing Jesus with others. As a young teen, I desired to help others experience the same freedom I felt in the Lord. This passion, coupled with a God-given gift of leadership, led me into ministry.
What have your biggest challenges been?
Naomi – I tend to sell myself short and let feelings of inadequacy color situations. I also try and avoid disappointing people, which is difficult since any decision could seem like the wrong decision to someone. In those moments, I take a deep breath and remember that God’s strength is revealed in my weaknesses and that service to Christ is the goal, not favor with people.
Carmen – Balancing busy ministry and family schedules can be a struggle. That was a challenge even before the pandemic, but now, four out of my five children are learning from home. I want to ensure my family is my first ministry and biggest priority. Carving out quality time to spend with my children and husband when I’m not working helps maintain an important balance.
Rebeca – I sometimes struggle to navigate inter-generational conflicts within my congregation. Our older members still cling to church traditions while our younger members appreciate a more modern and relaxed style of worship. I work hard to bridge the gap by fostering community and finding common ground. We have slowly seen healing and connection between the two generations by creating prayer groups and times of intentional, Spirit-led worship.
Teddi – My greatest struggle happens in my own heart and mind. It’s easy to be distracted and lose sight of Gospel priorities. It’s devastating when my focus shifts off Jesus and I become frustrated with the people I desire to serve and encourage. In those moments, I have to give Jesus my most precious resource – time. It could look like a walk around my favorite lake or time in his Word, but it always looks like an open heart, a quiet spirit, and an eagerness to simply be aware of his constant presence and love.
What is your favorite part of pastoring?
Naomi – I enjoy creating spaces for people of all ages to learn together. We recently used our building’s green space for a series of intergenerational outdoor events. We provided picnic dinners and invited people to stay for songs, games, and devotions afterward. I relished the challenge of taking big theological concepts and finding simple, engaging ways to talk about them with toddlers to those in their eighties.
Carmen – I love the inter-personal parts of ministry. One of the bright spots is seeing someone grow in their faith and discover new and deeper levels of their relationship with Christ. A close second is hearing how God has answered prayers and shown love to people I am intentionally praying for.
Rebeca – My favorite part is being able to invite people into deep worship of the only true God. Worship has helped bridge generational divides and brought healing and purpose to our congregation. Out of that, we have started reaching our larger community. We launched a food pantry last year and now offer meals to those experiencing homelessness.
Teddi – I love being with people when their hearts are authentically open, and they experience the overwhelming love of God. Watching them grab hold of and live out of their identity in Christ is so special. I also love preaching and feeling the Holy Spirit flow through me. After hours of preparation, it’s humbling and thrilling to feel God Almighty speaking truth through you and piercing hearts.
What would you tell another woman who feels called to ministry?
Naomi – Grow thick skin but keep your heart tender. Seek out a mentor who will listen well as you articulate your calling. Allow that person to speak encouragement into your life. Remember that the God who called you will be faithful to use you wherever you serve him.
Carmen – After devoting time to prayer and discernment, reach out to leadership in your local congregation to discuss how God is moving you. This will help you discover what opportunities may exist for you to use your gifts. Start small, pace yourself, and allow God to lead.
Rebeca – Seek confirmation on your calling. Come into ministry for the right reasons, not just because you want to be another female pastor to prove a point. You can find assurance knowing you have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and that you are willing to go forward at any cost.
Teddi – Remember no one person can reach everyone. Some will receive the Lord working through you and others will not. Do not take this personally as this is the case for all who minister. Trust the Lord’s timing, placement, and preparation of hearts; he will work through you for his glory.
About the Pastors
Naomi (Spurrier) Smith serves as an associate pastor at Dillsburg BIC where she oversees discipleship for adults and children. She also serves on General Conference Board, representing the Susquehanna Conference. She lives with her husband, three children, and parents in Dillsburg, Pa. and enjoys long walks, good books, family movie nights, and Saturday morning pancakes.
Carmen Dones has been the pastor of outreach ministries at Harrisburg BIC since 2019. She oversees ministries to the local community and collaborates with outside organizations in ministry partnerships. She enjoys praying, reading, and spending time with her husband and their five children.
Rebeca Pedroza has been the senior pastor of El Monte Calvario in Salem, Ore. since 2018 where she preaches and teaches from the word of God on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Spirit of the Lord works in her life through the gift of prophecy for the edification of the Church. She and her husband of 30 years have two children and two grandchildren.
Teddi Rodgers is a co-senior pastor with her husband, Frank, at Grafted Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. She is passionate about helping others to personally know and experience the love of God so that healing and wholeness can happen. She desires to help others realize and embrace God’s calling in their lives and to be with them in that journey.