Kristen Padilla says she remembers crying real tears when she was 8 or 9 years old, distressed because even at that young age, she felt God calling her to ministry and she didn’t know what to do with that.
The only path she saw for ministry in her small, rural Southern Baptist church was to be a pastor like her dad — and she knew she couldn’t do that, nor did she want to.
But as Padilla grew up and grew in her faith, the call only got stronger.
“When I surrendered to a call to ministry in high school, I couldn’t say no anymore. I trusted the Lord that if this was what He was leading me to do, He would see it through,” she said.
She says her church in Texas was “very encouraging and affirming,” but they also didn’t know how to help her move forward. Some told her she might marry a preacher or maybe be the next Beth Moore.
“I wasn’t sure what I could do or should do,” Padilla said, noting that she had a “bit of a crisis.”
At Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and later at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, where she earned her master of divinity, Padilla said God put people in her path to help her explore what ministry could look like within the framework of her Southern Baptist beliefs.
Now Padilla, who serves as Beeson’s manager of marketing and communications, wants to help others do the same thing.
Beeson recently launched The Center for Women in Ministry, an idea Padilla says God planted in her heart six years ago.
“God gave me a vision for a center or a hub that would have concentrated efforts to help and encourage women along their ministry journey to be faithful in gospel ministry for the long haul, to thrive in ministry and to be placed in ministry,” said Padilla, who serves as the center’s director. “It will exist to encourage and equip women called to Christian ministry.”
That will start with Beeson’s own female students, providing resources, events and mentoring “to help them thrive while they are studying and preparing for ministry,” she said.
From there, it will grow to include female students at Samford University, Beeson alums who are in ministry or are looking for ministry roles to fill and other women in ministry who need resourcing to thrive in their roles but don’t have Beeson ties.
The Center for Women in Ministry joins similar ministries at other seminaries, such as the Society for Women in Scholarship at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and the Women’s Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
However, Beeson’s center won’t just focus on students; it seeks to resource women from their call all the way through their ministry years.
Padilla, author of the book “Now That I’m Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry,” says Beeson’s Center will not advocate for a certain position on women in ministry or make a statement about women’s ordination.
Because Beeson is an interdenominational seminary, the center will also be interdenominational, offering support to women within the framework of their own denominations — just as Padilla was supported in her Southern Baptist faith.
It will also be a resource for male leaders who might want help knowing how to support women in their congregation who feel a call to ministry, she said.
“I’ve been very encouraged by conversations I’ve had with male alums and other male leaders not otherwise connected to Beeson who recognize a need to create spaces for women to serve in ministry,” Padilla said. “Many of them see women in their churches who have a call to ministry, and they are asking really good questions about how they can do better about equipping and encouraging them.”
(held on campus)
- Feb. 23 — Listening Lunch: Center for Women in Ministry
- March 8 — Women’s International Day Worship Service and Dessert Social
- March 17 — Lunch with Dr. Catherine McDowell
- March 30 — Lunch with Hannah Anderson
For more information on upcoming events, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to Beeson’s podcast interview with Padilla, visit beesondivinity.com/podcast/2021/conversation-Kristen-Padilla.
For more information about the Center for Women in Ministry, click here.