Jess Sheely on Full-Time Ministry…

Jess Sheely is the Pastoral Assistant at Scots Church Sydney.

Jess, tell us about your role.

I am going into my fifth year being on staff at Scots Presbyterian Church which feels crazy! I serve by overseeing our Bible study ministry, church wide training and am involved in integration of newcomers, evangelism and women’s specific discipleship. So it’s kind of a range of different things.

Share with us some of your joys in ministry.

I love seeing the church  filled with a big range of ethnicities, language, ages, families and singles, newish people to church, all sorts! The unity they express in Jesus despite all those differences and how people have understood what it means to be welcomed by God into his family is a joy. Seeing how they use their gifts and are courageous to try new things. This year we have some new Bible study leaders who I think are possibly quite terrified, but they’re willing to give it a go for the sake of serving other people. I love seeing that across the church, people are being courageous for the gospel.

You've been a part of the first Team Development Program pilot in 2023. What has that looked like for you?

Initially, I was really scared about signing up to join a group of people I don’t know and sharing my story with them. But I recognised that I needed to upskill in order to help see the church ministries grow, so I came with those areas of growth in mind. Often when I hear or read things about leadership it’s tailored towards a senior leader which I then translate for my context. So participating in the Team Development Program was really refreshing, having a group of people thinking about leadership where everyone was a team member and being able to talk through the distinctives of that in a way that we can rejoice in the strengths and be realistic about the challenges.

Have you seen an impact on your ministry since the Team Development Program?

I went back to my team including interns and apprentices with a one page summary of everything we covered in the intensive and the things I have been thinking about. Having an overview with them generated lots of helpful discussion, especially around delegation of their ministry areas in the church.

It made me excited about being on a team! To be honest, it’s easy to think that because I’m a woman I have to be resigned to  the fact that I’m never going to be a senior minister and being a team member can almost feel like a second place prize. Theologically, I know that is not true, but it feels like it sometimes. Being in the program and hearing about different ministries from men and women, reignited some of the joy of being in a team for me. At no point did it feel like a second place prize. It was really helpful just for my heart to rejoice in who God made me to be and where He has placed me.

You have also completed the Reach Australia coaching training. How has this been helpful for your ministry?

I’m prone to feeling like I need to solve people’s problems but the structure of the coaching model reinforced for me that actually, that’s not my responsibility under God. Me solving people’s problems isn’t good for them or good for me. The coaching structure helped me feel calmer about asking good questions to help them solve the issue or think creatively about their options. It’s given me a great structure that I find myself using in all sorts of situations as I walk alongside peers in ministry, with apprentices or interns at church and one day maybe coaching within the Reach Australia network.

Any last comments on the Team Development Program and coach training?

Full time ministry as a woman can be lonely. I found both the Team Development Program and coaching training has put me in contact with wonderfully godly women, who I’ve been able to learn from in a way that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve felt a great sense of gospel unity with people from all sorts of places through the programs. We know the world needs Jesus and that requires creativity and boldness, so things like the Team Development Program and coach training have helped me think outside the box on how we reach Australia and the world for Christ.

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