Sarah Kuswadi asked Jess Prins about her ministry at Summerleas Church in Hobart.
SK: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is you do with the ministry that you are involved in?
JP: I am a child of God; wife to an amazing, loving and supportive husband; mum of two delightful daughters (aged ten and eight); and owner of an adorable dog. We live in Kingston, in the beautiful state of Tasmania: where you can enjoy the delights of the beach, the bush, and the city all within a thirty-minute drive with hardly any traffic! When I’m not working or driving my children around places, I’m usually either sitting in coffee shops where I like to read and write; cooking cakes, watching TV, or going for a walk.
I’m employed by Summerleas Christian Church as the ministry assistant and have been in this role for a little over a year now. In this role I oversee Maturity aspects of the church (along with the pastor, Bernard Cane); oversee the Community aspects of church and women’s ministry; and just some of the usual random things that seem to crop up for church staff—there’s more than you would think! A normal week can include writing Bible studies, meeting up with women, integrating new members, and organising women’s events.
I’m also involved in the Tasmanian Women’s Bible Conference (TWBC), which organises events for women in Tasmania. TWBC has also just recently launched a group for women in ministry to provide support, encouragement, and networking for the growing number of women in paid and volunteer roles across Tasmania.
What are your short and long-term hopes for your ministry?
In the short term I would love to be training and coaching women more in my church and possibly beyond. I really enjoy writing and would love to have some kind of writing ministry. Marty and I were blessed to spend two years at Sydney Missionary and Bible College; I’d love to dedicate some more time to continue my theological education.
In the long term I would just love to stay in ministry! It’s hard work and it’s draining; but I pray that God will sustain me and my family to enable us to persevere to the end. Paid ministry roles for women are few; I feel that it is a privilege to be in my current role; I also hope that we will continue to have the resources in Tasmania to employ more women in church and parachurch ministry.
What is your background and what is something that’s unusual about that?
I started on the usual trajectory of heading into ministry with involvement in youth ministry, one-to-one discipleship, doing an MTS Apprenticeship, and then heading to Bible College. However, after that, veered off the expected trajectory. We had our children relativity close together and health issues during and after pregnancy meant that I had to put a lot of my ministry aspirations on hold.
When we felt it was a good time to think more seriously about going into paid ministry work, there was nothing available, or so I thought. God provided an opportunity to work with a parachurch organisation, The Vision 100 Network, as their Event Manager. So I started out in paid ministry as an administrator and event manager. This side-entry provided a really great opportunity to see ministry from a different perspective. It also led to a large amount of networking, and getting to know people within Tasmania and further afield (it’s actually how you and I met, Sarah!). I had the opportunity to mix with people working in ministry from all different denominations and parachurch ministries. This has really helped enhance my current role: I have learnt so much from all these people. And the administration skills that I learnt have really helped me be slightly more efficient in my current role. Bible college courses really don’t prepare you for the intricacies of Elvanto or Canva!
What appealed to you about the role at Summerleas?
As mentioned above, after a couple of years of being involved in ministry administration and event management, I was really keen to get more involved in word-based ministry. So the role of ministry assistant appealed to me as it encompassed that. I think ministry administration is so important, and really worth spending time and money on; it just wasn’t where my passions lay.
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 was blessed very early on in my Christian walk with older women who shared their lives with me, read the Bible with me, and prayed with me. I encourage you to meet up and read the Bible with older women who will stretch you and ask you the hard questions and challenge you to do different things, if you can. But also: could you be that ‘older’ woman to someone else?
I also found doing an MTS Apprenticeship so helpful. It taught me many things about God and about myself, and exposed me to many different areas of ministry which, along with Bible College, set me on a path towards a ministry grounded in God’s word and equipped with key ministry skills.
Lastly, I have been blessed with really supportive male leadership—who appreciate and understand my capacity and the different roles that are competing for my time, such as family obligations. These male leaders have helped me to understand this and come to terms with it, without me feeling guilty or second-rate. Their ongoing support and friendship has been a great help.
Can you tell us about some things that you have learnt recently in your role?
Oh, so much! You really do learn a lot about yourself in doing ministry. Recently what has surprised me is how draining it is on me to do those tasks I don’t enjoy. It feels pretty insular and selfish, and yet the truth remains that when I’m fulfilling those responsibilities that I really enjoy, my general wellbeing is so much better than when I’m in the midst those duties which I know are important, but just feel more burdensome. The lesson for me is to make sure that in my working week there is a mixture of both of these types of tasks.
Is there a Bible verse that you often come back to for encouragement?
Psalm 73:23–26 comes to mind. After the Psalmist laments over his own sin and the sin of others who appear to be going unpunished, he comes to the conclusion:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
And afterwar you will receive glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth
That I desire beside you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my
Heart and my portion forever.
I aspire to be in the same head space place as this psalmist: to be someone who takes refuge in God despite their circumstances; to be someone who is content in God alone. Having been through periods of debilitating health issues, knowing God’s strength is feels quite real to me. It is something I try to hold onto every single day—in sickness, and in health.