Sarah Kuswadi sat down with Michelle Schultz to interview her about her work at Trinity Church Adelaide and how God was with Michelle through difference seasons of her life that led to her working full time for her church.
Sarah Kuswadi: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is you do at Trinity Church Adelaide?
Michelle Schultz: I’m a precious child of God and a citizen of heaven. I love Jesus and I love people, and the sweet spot for me is where the two join. I am in my 40s and I live alone. Like a bird, I like to fly north in the winter just to warm up. I struggle to keep pot plants alive but thrive in my role as an aunty of six young adults, godmother of four children, and as an occasional emergency and regular respite foster carer. I am employed by Trinity Church Adelaide, working in a full-time pastoral role, and am undertaking part-time theological training through the Bible College of South Australia. We have a relatively large, supportive, godly, and highly skilled staff team at our church; plus a very supportive, faithful body of members. I often pinch myself in appreciation and awe that I get to serve with and for such godly and gifted people.
I understand that you had a bit of a journey to come to be in this role, can you please tell us about it?
A believer since childhood, I’ve attended Trinity Church Adelaide since 2005, by which time I was in my late 20s. At that stage I felt I’d already faced a couple of hard and complicated seasons, but by God’s grace he used my earlier years to shape me and to deepen my trust and confidence in him. The first two decades of my working life were spent in business administration roles in the health sector, with a strong focus on membership services, executive support, and in securing and nurturing business to business customer relationships. I took redundancy from my long-term employer in November 2020, enrolled at the Bible College of South Australia for a year of full-time theological training, and was appointed to the Trinity staff team in a pastoral role in 2021. I am constantly thankful that many skills obtained in my previous roles have been directly transferable to vocational ministry, and that I’ve had 25 years of lay ministry experience which has helped prepare, shape, and equip me. I miss some aspects of my former workplace but I certainly have no regrets on moving into this role. Doing so has certainly freshened up my forties, and God has grown me immensely through the process.
I’m currently deployed to focus primarily on our 6pm Gathering, which involves some Sunday platform roles, coordinating and supporting leaders of the mid-week growth groups for adults, and overseeing 6pm Membership portfolios often explained as Connection, Community, and Care. I love supporting our members in their efforts to offer hospitality to the stranger, build community, and foster rich older/younger brother/sister relationships within the body.
I’m also heavily involved in supporting newcomers to Trinity Church Adelaide. This involves coordinating and participating in our newcomer afternoon, Belong, which runs six times a year.
What are your short and long term hopes for your ministry?
This is my second year of full-time ministry. We’ve recently combined two evening gatherings, so in the short term most of my goals are associated with helping lead and support our members through this season of change. I think I’m still learning and adjusting to this larger-sized gathering, of approximately two hundred people, so I am asking the Lord to help me navigate this well. We are praying that God provides the way forward for the development of our heritage listed site to be refurbished and beautified. I’m excited to think about how the plans could benefit gospel ministry in Adelaide for generations to come.
I have a passion for creating a church culture that is both welcoming to the stranger, and intentionally loving and caring toward each other as members of the body of Christ. Being a city church, we have a high turnover of a portion of our membership; yet we are also greatly blessed by a large number of godly, long-term members who are committed to and passionate about the unique kingdom and ministry opportunities our central location offers. It is my prayer that my role will ensure we hold a posture of inclusion and openness to the newcomer while we also nourishing and growing the faithful saints who have been here for a long time. In the longer term, it would be amazing to see an increase in the breadth and depth of informal and formal ministries to foster and grow this culture.
What is your background and what is something that’s unusual about that?
I feel like a pretty regular girl next door: I’m not sure there’s anything unusual about me! I am somewhat of a late entrant to vocational ministry. I didn’t take the apprenticeship to theological training to vocational ministry pathway. Instead, it turns out that I unknowingly did a twenty-year informal training program under the supervision of several godly pastors. Other unusual things are perhaps: in my teens, my mother died after a seven-year battle with cancer; in my twenties, I was married and divorced; in my thirties, I worked, got a mortgage, travelled, and processed the reality that I wouldn’t bear children; in my forties, I moved into vocational ministry after taking redundancy from an organisation that I thought couldn’t survive without me. Hard as some of those things were, I think God has used each stage to shape and mould me ready for his use. Many believers have been generous in their love toward me over the years. And now it is Jesus’ love that compels me to love people of all ages, no matter their circumstance, and motivates me to care for those in need.
What appealed to you about the role at Trinity?
The proposed role included a strong Membership focus, which I felt was a good alignment to my skills and God-given passions. Knowing I’d be the only female pastor on team at commencement was a little daunting, but I was keen to be at the table with a team of pastors whom I already knew, respected, enjoyed serving with, and loved dearly. My role has evolved significantly, in ways that I think have been good and helpful, both for me and the church. I have wondered if I would have moved into vocational ministry without this particular opportunity and need within my own church community. I trust he opened the doors that enabled it. I did know that I loved the local church, I wanted to see more women in vocational ministry, I had the opportunity to undertake a year of theological training, I had the opportunity to explore possibilities for employment, and proceeding felt right to me. It has been so good for me and my relationship with God to take this path.
My hope is to show a variety of different ways that women serve in ministry around Australia. What would you want to share with other women about what has equipped you for this role?
I look forward to completing my theological studies in the next few years. I’m aware that with each additional subject under my belt I feel more convicted in the truth of the gospel, better equipped to handle the Bible and feel increasingly able to helpfully contribute content for discussions, talks, and studies. Plus, College lectures themselves are so interesting and encouraging! I’m hopeful of encouraging more women into Bible college for theological training and vocational ministry. My observation here in Adelaide is that the need exceeds the ‘workforce supply’— churches often want women on pastoral teams, so we are wise to encourage women to train for this.
Can you tell us about some things that you have learnt recently in your role?
Life can be hard. The older I get the more I realise there is so much hurt, injustice, complexity, and sorrow in this world. Where is the hope? It is only found in Jesus. Central to my role is pointing people to him as the great healer and restorer.
Is there a Bible verse that you often come back to for encouragement?
Psalm 121, especially verses 1 to 2: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth.” I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this on my kitchen wall and been reminded to come to him in prayer. It is a wonderful reminder to me that the Lord is my ever-present, reliable, and accessible confidante. As a single person in ministry, this reminder of his consistency and care is wonderful. He doesn’t sleep, he protects and watches over me constantly. But more than that: he is the maker of all things and is sovereign over all. Where else would I go for assurance and comfort?