Julie Collins was one of those stand-out ministerial students every professor knew was going to make an impact. I had her in the first introductory ministerial course and a bunch of courses after that. She was brilliant and could have gotten a free ride to just about any grad school or seminary in the country. But Julie felt too called to the local church to go one just yet for further education—she wanted to be in local church ministry—and right away. Julie was a Methodist when she came to IWU but when she graduated she became a Wesleyan and went on staff at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church (Michigan) where she became a model of what a woman can do as a youth pastor. Being a woman youth pastor is sometimes a harder glass ceiling” to break than becoming a woman senior pastor or General Superintendent. There are few areas of ministry where women ministers have a harder time “breaking in” than youth ministry. But she did it and did it well—even though she hardly appeared to be much older than the teens she led.
After several years as a youth pastor Julie felt led to enter what some of us had expected all along she would do—she became a single-woman-church planter! Julie moved to Ft. Collins, Colorado last summer and is now planting a new Wesleyan church there. She has assembled a team including Joel Stone, Brandon and Kristen Vanderkolk and maybe Katie and Jamie Fuller. Everyone on the team are all getting jobs so they can integrate into the community and pour money back into the church.
She hasn’t started public services yet but in November she launched her “party strategy” of holding weekly parties every Tuesday for the sole purpose of developing community and enjoying life with people they are collecting. Next she started a weekly Bible Study. The “party strategy” intrigues me… and it really fits what many younger folk (and some of us older folk) see as the need in the church for more intimacy and friendship. I bet it is easier for non-churched people to accept an invitation to a “party” than to a church service. How clever!
A larger core group is now developing out of those parties. At this point Julie’s team is looking toward a starting with a house church model which they feel better fits the Ft. Collins culture. She is developing then a monthly gathering of all the house churches. Her philosophical approach is heavily rooted in Ephesians 4—the ministerial team’s job is to equip the people to be ministers. As you might expect form her generation the approach is hyper-relational as hope to become a church that “does life together.”
About 40% of the students I teach are women called to ministry. They are passionate about the church and feel a clear call to the ministry. Yet they hear from some that because they are a woman they are deceived—for a woman cannot be called to the ministry. Yet they persevere hoping there will be a place for them some day. Julie’s example gives them hope. I am full of joy because of people like Julie Collins—a model church planter for a generation! I'm proud of you Julie!
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)