Women in Ministry: An Interview with Stephanie Christianson
MBH: Why don’t you just start by introducing yourself and sharing a bit about your faith journey, background, family, and how you came to enter into ministry leadership?
SC: I grew up in a Christian home, and my dad was a pastor. So, I’ve been in ministry my whole life. I remember accompanying him to lead worship services at the nursing home when I was four. So the Church has just always been a part of my life.
I fell in love with theology and studying scripture while studying at Bethany College and Hepburn, SK. I became convinced of the importance of Jesus in every aspect of my life and wanted to live that out. At first, I didn’t know what that would mean vocationally. But now, teaching and serving on faculty at Horizon College and Seminary, it comes full circle.
When I was 7 or 8, I looked at the book the adult Bible study group was reading and though: I can write this. So I went home and started to write my little notes on the book of Matthew. That desire as a kid to get into scripture and study it came to fruition in my current role at Horizon.
I was worried about where I would find work when I finished my MA in Theological Studies. God, in his goodness, stepped in and planted me where I am at Horizon, working in my field of study. That felt kind of miraculous— there aren’t many of these jobs out there.
MBH: Besides working at Horizon, you assisted the Saskatchewan MB Conference Executive Board and Faith and Life Team. How did that come about?
SC: It started as an internship on the SKMB Executive Board and as part of their Developmental Leadership Team. Conference Pastor Phil Gunther has given me many chances and opportunities to speak at denominational events. I also do some writing for the MB Herald. More recently, I presented at the SKMB Assembly.
Now I advise the Saskatchewan Provincial Faith and Life Team (PFLT), where I bring a perspective influenced and shaped by my thesis on Anabaptist Mennonite studies on nonviolence. I sometimes liaise between Horizon and SKMB, connecting MB students with Phil and the broader denomination. I brought some students to the SK Leadership Forum in November. A big part of my current role with the PFLT is reviewing credentialing applications, which I enjoy having gone through the process myself.
MBH: What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced so far in your ministry?
SC: Continuously, diving into the word of God will always be a highlight for me. Opportunities to preach and teach are always a joy. I love teaching, but I also love academic policy and administration. When I tell people that I work in academic policy and procedure, they chuckle, and I say, “No, no, it’s fun.”
I love designing good course infrastructure; I love nothing better than a well-organized, cohesive, beautiful syllabus. The students know what they need to do. I probably wouldn’t care as much about policy and administration if I was working for a car dealership. But because I’m trying to contribute to the students’ learning and their discipleship, I care about it very deeply. That’s why i’m doing it.
I also love seeing students grow from their first year to their fourth. It’s gratifying and encouraging to see their leadership skills develop and to think that I had a part in that, maybe not a big part, but i was part of it to some extent. I love that.
MBH: How has your experience as a woman in leadership been thus far?
SC: I wrestled with my calling as a woman. Women in ministry leadership weren’t in my cultural framework or frame of reference until I went to Bethany. I think back to how at 20 years old, I wanted to be in ministry leadership. Did that mean I wouldn’t get married eventually? What about kids? I wanted to do what God wanted. Did that mean, as a woman, I couldn’t preach and teach? So I wrestled with that pretty heavily, both emotionally and academically. I remember struggling with those feelings while writing a paper on 1 Timothy. I brought my feelings to my professor and asked, “What happens if I discover that I shouldn’t be preaching?”
He encouraged me to trust the process, “Go through scripture, fully dive into it, look at the historical, the literary, the cultural context, all of that, and just go with it.” So I did. And I came to one side of the conversation that it was okay for me to do these things, but still, there was significant wrestling.
Today, married, with a 16-month-old, I hold all these parts of me in tension. It takes work. It’s not easy for any working parent, right? But this is, I think, where God has called me right now. IN my wrestling, God spoke, “Stephanie, this isn’t a battle you need to fight. Embrace the opportunities I present and trust in me.”
There’s been a release of any friction or hard feelings that I could harbour. Today I lean into my calling fully.
Thank you for sharing your story, Stephanie. It was a real blessing to have you speak at Eyebrow Mennonite Church a number of years ago. I continue to follow your journey from a distance and am so thankful for you and other women like you who are using their gifts in the leadership of the church as God leads the way.